Sharks vs Stormers: Key areas where coastal derby could be won or lost

Stormers' head coach John Dobson

Stormers' head coach John Dobson. Photo: Thierry Zoccolan/AFP

Published Feb 13, 2024


The Durban duel in the United Rugby Championship (URC) between the Sharks and Stormers will cap off a weekend of South African derbies on Saturday.

It promises to be another nail-biter at Kings Park (kick-off 5.05pm) like it was at the DHL Stadium at the end of December when the Cape side took the spoils 16-15. Leighton Koopman takes a look at five areas of play where the contest could be decided.

The Sharks owe the Stormers a good showing in the tight battle after the inaugural URC champions outscrummed them in December, despite Ox Nche being part of the front row.

With no Springboks playing in this match due to their resting protocol, it should provide for a decent scrum battle between the so-called second-stringers of the two teams. But the Stormers might have the presence of Frans Malherbe, which could strengthen them.

Despite their last showing against the Cape side, the young Sharks will be looking forward to returning the favour.

Rolling mauls

This should make for another fierce contest. The Stormers have been hitting their straps with their rolling mauls in the last couple of games, but one thing missing was their finishing off the back of strong mauls.

The Sharks, with Corne Rahl and Gebrandt Grobler at the helm, have been strong in stopping teams from scoring off the back of mauls and they will look to halt the Stormers again. Having sorted out their maul troubles, the Cape side will be hoping to capitalise more off the back of the powerful ones they have been able to set in motion.

Mastering the high kicks

Expect it to rain up-and-under kicks in the Shark Tank as the sides pepper each other with high balls looking to gain territory from where they will be able to strike.

Their kick executions will be as important as that chase from the wingers and fullback, at times, will be. The home side were the Stormers’ nemesis with the box kicks the last time out and winger Werner Kok had a field day grabbing balls from the Cape Town sky.

How solid the Stormers are under the kicks will determine if they will be able to counter-attack in the broken play.

Rucking and rolling at the breakdown

The Stormers will be wary about the threat the Sharks possess at the breakdown, especially since they have been struggling to create clean ball possession for their dangerous outside backs.

John Dobson, head coach of the Stormers, has taken responsibility for their struggles protecting their ball and Cape supporters will hope he found a solution for their woes. Last time out, the Sharks’ hard men hit them hard at the tackle area and it caught the Stormers off guard.

They can expect more of the same in Durban and will have to be clinical in that area if they want their backline to run with the ball on the front foot.

Line speed on defence

Kok’s five-pointer off a line-out showed that the Stormers’ rush defence, which has been solid for the past few seasons, can be beaten on the outside if their opponents are accurate enough.

Equally, the Sharks defended with massive line speed and kept the Stormers’ dangerous runners from getting any space. They were probably the only team so far this season that stopped the fleet-footed backs of the inaugural champs from really getting any rhythm on the attack.

Overall, though, the Stormers’ defence has been solid and they will need to put on another good display to stop the home side on Saturday.


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