Sharks vs Stormers: A Super Rugby battle royal in the offing
1. Confidence is king
Never mind cash, confidence is king when it comes to winning rugby matches, and the Sharks are brimful of the good stuff. They hit the ground running with a hard-fought win over the Bulls way back on January 31 at Jonsson Kings Park and have gone on to win a further four games with the lone loss being an honourable defeat to the Hurricanes in Wellington. Just as losing is a habit, so is winning and with five scalps from six outings the Sharks are enjoying the sweet taste of success - and they want more of it.
2. Winning recipe
One of the appeals of watching the Sharks this season is that they are a team comfortable with how they are playing and what they are trying to achieve. Under Sean Everitt, the players know exactly what is expected of them. The Sharks kick the second most in Super Rugby, mostly via halfbacks Louis Schreuder and Curwin Bosch, but they kick so efficiently that it isn’t a bore, especially when you have ruthless chasers such as Sbu Nkosi and Makazole Mapimpi, both of whom are a pleasure to watch in the air. And then, of course, is their spectacular counter-attacking game.
3. Bite up front
At the start of the season, many a critic felt that that the Sharks’ tight five would be their soft underbelly because so many burly forwards had departed last year.
It was fair comment because the Sharks’ set piece creaked for the first four rounds but has settled down now and was very good against two strong packs in the Reds and the Jaguares, and there is a belief they can stand up to the Stormers. Players have matured and come good, notably locks Ruben van Heerden and Hyron Andrews. The Sharks have also found an able replacement for Tendai Mtawarira in Ox Nche.
THREE REASONS WHY THE STORMERS WILL PREVAIL
EARLIER this week, Stormers coach John Dobson said that the team have been quite resilient in dealing with the loss of reigning World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit and went on to explain that all their focus is channelled into bouncing back from their shocker against the Blues.
That alone makes them dangerous. They were unbeaten until that 33-14 defeat, and their performance in that game differed greatly to what we had seen from them until then.
They’ll be desperate to make up for the wrongs of that Newlands horror show and to make sure that they get back to winning ways.
2. The JL factor
It’s no secret that Damian Willemse hasn’t been on absolute fire in 2020. While it hasn’t been all bad, his showings haven’t been anywhere close to how good we all know he can be. Jean-Luc du Plessis, on the other hand, has been solid for the Stormers off the bench, and he’ll be keen to show that he can deliver right from the start as well. He’ll have a big say in how things go down at Kings Park this afternoon, and that motivation, combined with his playing ability, should be enough to make something happen.
3. Fire from Kitshoff and Co
The Stormers pack, when fully available, is the stuff of legends. The Bok-laden unit has all the manpower to dismantle any team in Super Rugby when it comes to the tight exchanges, but with Du Toit, Siya Kolisi and Bongi Mbonambi out, there’s considerably less to threaten the opposition with. In fact, in its current form, you can’t even really say the Stormers pack is meaner than the Sharks’. This makes it vital that the pack doing duty today go as hard as they can. Steven Kitshoff, for example, can bring a next-level type of workrate, and if he can influence his charges upfront to do the same, they should be good.