Two giants of the Super XV clash in Cape Town on Saturday, with the combatants coming in to the match on the back of vastly different results last week. While the Sharks’ confidence received a huge boost when they held on for victory over the Crusaders the Stormers lost to the Cheetahs, a team until recently considered one of the whipping boys of the African conference.
To gauge how last week’s results may impact this round’s encounter and what we can expect from both sides we sought out the opinions of two good friends, Sharks man Shaun from JudgeRugby and Stormers’ fan Brad from InThePub.
|What do you think your side will have taken out of last weekend’s result?
|The defeat against the Cheetahs last weekend was as painful as a knife in the heart of all Stormers fans. This was the first defeat to the Cheetahs since 2007, and is really the signal that the warning lights are going off in Cape Town. Whilst there were a few positives for the Stormers to take out of the game, the primary overwhelming thought in the Cape franchise must be “we have to work smarter, not harder”. Tactically the Stormers are being outplayed week after week, and no matter what sort of effort the team puts in, if you are pushing in the wrong direction, the results will always be poor. The lesson from last week is to return back to the basics.
|Massive result and massive move from being good to believing that you have the goods to go all the way. Although the Sharks are lacking in the try department they are proving that with solid defence and belief in the game plan you can make it through tough games. This week won’t be any different.
|What strengths will your side bring to this encounter?
|With the quantum of injuries the Stormers are currently enduring, the team will be fielding second choice options at fly half, wing, fullback, lock, flank, and hooker. The Stormers injury list is currently 13 players long, and this week will be a real test of the depth present in the squad. With an injury list this long, the only real strengths the Stormers have at the moment is the ball carrying ability of their loose forwards, and the loosies’ intensity on defense. The Crusaders exploited the Stormers lineout, and it has become clear in recent weeks that the Stormers are missing the consistency of Tiaan Liebenberg on their throw ins. The Stormers defense has looked shaky in recent weeks, and it seems as though this core strength of the Stormers in recent years has well and truly left the building.
|Momentum and a very well settled side. The Sharks have been fortunate that injuries have been filled by strong players which shows a great squad depth. There is the matter of Sean Robinson making his debut on the wing but if he gets some good clean ball on the wing he will be great to watch.
|What weaknesses do the opposition possess which your side will look to exploit?
|The Sharks have a springbok front row. They have a springbok loose trio, as well as a springbok fly half and outside backs. Where is the weakness you ask? Well, there isn’t one really. There may be areas stronger than others, but to call this area a weakness would be a lie. I’m referring to the Sharks’ centres. They will be lining up against Jean De Villiers and Juan De Jongh, and in this contest you would expect the two Stormers men to outclass their opponents. However, a game isn’t played on paper, and the Sharks centre pairing are very capable of keeping the Stormers 12 and 13 quiet.
|I think the Stormers are in a little turmoil at the moment coming off a few losses. They have been battling away from home but sadly their ‘home’ has been giving them a bit of grief lately too. They face an uphill battle with a number of supporters who expect more from them and aren’t afraid to show it. They have had far too many injuries in key areas and this can only be fixed with a great team spirit and big heart.
|Who will be your team’s key player?
|Duane Vermeulen. This man has been quiet to date in this year’s Super Rugby competition, but now more than ever the Stormers need Vermeulen’s physicality. The Stormers are leaking tries, not contesting at breakdowns, and not making a lot of hard yards with their forwards in recent times. A coastal derby is the perfect platform for Vermeulen to once again prove he is the best number 8 in the country. And to do this, he needs to resume his knack for doing the work of two men on a rugby field. If Vermeulen has the kind of game we know he can the Stormers will have front foot ball that can allow their dangerous backs space and give them a chance of victory.
|It is extremely difficult to select one, as the strength of the tight five allow the loose forwards to set up great ball for the backs to capitalise on. Meyer Bosman will be key for me this weekend.
|How will the match unfold?
|The depleted Stormers team is really up against it this weekend meeting a quality Sharks team. With so many key players injured it is very hard to envisage a favourable outcome for the Stormers. The Sharks will scrum the Stormers off the park, and steal a lot of Stormers ball at the breakdown. The Stormers will feed off the mistakes of the Sharks, so if the Sharks can keep their errors to a minimum it will be difficult for the Stormers to get a foothold into this match. I envisage the Sharks having too much firepower for the Stormers, and the Stormers slumping to their 5th defeat this season.
Score prediction? 25 – 16 in favour of the Sharks.
|I think we will be in for a tough and tight game. The Stormers are going to come out all guns blazing and the Sharks will need to subdue this and gain the advantage. Tough and tight tussle for first 60 but the Sharks will pull away in the last quarter with better depth off the bench.Score prediction? Sharks by 12