CAPE TOWN - The Sharks and Stormers do battle at Jonsson Kings Park at 1pm today in the first match of the second-round of Rainbow Cup SA. Mike Greenaway looks at three factors that could influence the outcome.
The big talking point after the Sharks were soundly beaten by the Bulls last week was the disappearance of the Sharks’ forward pack in the last half an hour of the match.
Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett put it his way: “The white flag went up from the Sharks.”
The criticism has stung the Sharks and coach Sean Everitt has promised that there will be a response from his troops. Of course, there will be effort from the Durban men, but will that be enough against a very strong Stormers forward unit that is packed with Springboks, including a World Cup final front row?
As Everitt himself said, “After seeing the second half of our match last week, the Stormers will be sensing an opportunity…”
Winning the aerial battle
Rain is expected in Durban around the time of the match and both sides will consequently lean even more on the tactic of contestable kicking. It is something the Sharks relied heavily on when they beat the Stormers in the Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands, with Curwin Bosch taking a few steps back into the pocket and hoisting the ball into the heavens.
Bosch is very adept at this tactic, and Jaden Hendrikse is no slouch either, and it is possible the Sharks could have an edge in this department, especially as they have possibly the world’s best chaser in right wing Sbu Nkosi.
And Stormers coach John Dobson has admitted his team have been wanting in this area. "It wasn’t good over the past couple of weeks. We are expecting a massive aerial battle. Both of us kicking and chasing our own contestables, receiving their constestables and setting after that, will be a massive part of our preparation.”
Keeping on the right side of the law
A common factor for all the teams in the first round of the Rainbow has been high penalty counts.
The Sharks have been notorious for giving away penalties at the breakdown and in defence of mauls. Against the Lions they gave away a staggering 20 penalties and two yellow cards. Last week against the Bulls, the penalty count against them rose in the second half when their pack came under pressure.
It is logical that the Sharks gaining at least parity up front will help keep the penalty count down. The Stormers need no reminding that it was their discipline that cost them the game against the Sharks in the first round. They had two red cards and even though under the new rules the players were replaced after 20 minutes, the damage was done. Given both teams have battled with discipline, the team that best keeps its cool will have a better chance of winning.