CAPE TOWN – The last time the Stormers beat the Sharks, it was a big performance from their forwards that was key.
They fronted the team from Durban physically and played smart tactically. But now, as they prepare to host the Sharks in a Super Rugby decider, a big part of that winning formula is absent.
Missing the likes of Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth, it remains to be seen how the Stormers will go against the physicality-first Sharks.
But another element the Sharks have often used to their advantage is their offloading game.
With big ball-carriers and a slick backline waiting to pounce, it’s those offloads that coach Robbie Fleck says they have to watch out for.
“We are going to have to present a decent defensive line and knock them back in the tackle. If they manage to get in behind us that is when their offloading becomes very difficult to defend against,” said Fleck.
“The Sharks have a decent kicking game and certainly at the beginning of the competition they were good at that and relied on it but as the competition has progressed they’ve kept more ball in hand.”
The Stormers presented a much better defensive effort against the Sunwolves than the one they showed at Ellis Park, but their scrum could have gone better in the first half last weekend.
And while those are areas the Stormers will want to operate like a freshly oiled machine on Saturday, their execution is also something that’ll have to be sharper.
The Sharks, though, have a bit more fixing to do.
Their performance against the Jaguares produced a result that was to be expected, and they also face the challenge of fatigue that could be a factor after returning from Buenos Aires.
Fleck, though, made specific reference to the Sharks’ approach in the last quarter of that match.
“Certainly in the last 15 minutes against the Jaguares they showed how good they can be at keeping ball in hand and we have taken note of that. They are a tough side to play against. They are defensively very strong and organised and they also have a good set piece, they back their maul and their ball carriers.
“Defensively we will have to be very good and we got some pointers from the Jaguares, who I felt were outstanding against the Sharks and put them under pressure. So for that matter did the Hurricanes the week before.”
Fleck also added they didn’t dwell on their performance against the Sunwolves too much this week.
“It’s all about the Sharks now and that is what we have been focusing on from the start of the week. Straight away yesterday we showed one or two clips of the Sunwolves game, but it has pretty much been 90 percent about the Sharks.
“Everything is on the line in this game. If we win it we go through to the play-offs, if we lose it our season is over.”