Sharks players trying to grab hold of their Lions opponent during their opening Super Rugby game. Photo: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix
The Sharks showed plenty of promise against the Lions in round one of Super Rugby in a game they could well have won but can they rally to make a decent fist of the unfolding competition?

So much depends on their next two games, both at home and against the Waratahs and Sunwolves respectively. Having picked up a bonus point from the defeat in Johannesburg, the Sharks simply have to bank as close to 10 points as possible over the next fortnight before they head overseas on tour.

And it is as much about the log points as it is about morale-boosting form. The Sharks had a very good pre-season in terms of training and warm-up games, and apart from the set scrums and the driving mauls, were good against the Lions.

There are so many good signs that the Sharks backline could end up the most lethal in the competition. 

Cameron Wright has been a revelation at scrumhalf since his return from Montpellier, flyhalf Robert du Preez showed against the Lions that he is willing to hit the advantage line with pace, the way Henry Honiball used to do. 

And that brings into action a seriously talented backline, from the power game at inside centre of André Esterhuizen and (Marius Louw) to the deft skills of Lukhanyo Am (and Jeremy Ward) at outside centre and then the potent back three of the fleet-footed Makazole Mapimpi, Lwazi Mvovo and Sbu Nkosi, with the robust Kobus van Wyk covering virtually the whole backline. And let's not forget the outrageously talented Curiwn Bosch who can cover virtually every position in the backline.

The set scrums were an obvious problem against the Lions but they will be better with Tendai Mtwriria starting at loosehead once more against the Waratahs and Thomas du Toit will get increasingly better the more he plays in his new position of tighthead.

He was always going to be targeted against the Lions although the Sharks’ coaching staff did not anticipate that it would go quite so badly. Well, Thomas has doubtless been no stranger to the scrumming machine since the Lions game, and Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers is adding his 10 cents worth. He is a former tighthead himself (for France), and he is working closely with The Tank.

After the home game against the Sunwolves, the Sharks hit the road for tricky fixtures against the Brumbies, Rebels, Blues and Hurricanes. No gimmees there.

Then follows a succession of mostly home games and some massive derbies away from Durban. But by that time the Sharks will be hoping to be sitting comfortably on the log, and if that is going to be the case, winning the next fortnight of home games is non-negotiable.

Sunday Tribune

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