After last week’s annihilation of the Vodacom Bulls by the Crusaders, many neutral South African rugby fans will be hoping that the Sharks can score an emphatic victory when they visit Loftus on Saturday.
Gavin Rich writes on Superrugby that the Durban side are the only unbeaten local team in the competition after just two rounds, and on last week’s evidence they are going to have to beat the Bulls by some distance if we are not to be left with the impression that the Kiwis are a considerable distance ahead of South Africa in this first year of the next World Cup cycle.
To be honest, the Sharks haven’t been that convincing this season either. They stuttered at times against the Western Force two weeks ago, and they may have struggled to beat the Stormers had it not been for the Cape team’s self-destruct mechanism that saw them play 20 minutes of the second half with 14 men.
But coach Dick Muir has made no bones about the debilitating aspects of playing at Absa Stadium at this time of the year. To put it simply, with the muggy humid conditions that prevail there in February, it just isn’t a venue suited to expansive, running rugby.
It may well be that this is becoming a bit of a psychological factor for the Sharks, and there were times last week when it appeared they were tentative in the first half, almost as if they were saving themselves. Later in the game, once they were forced to play more positive rugby, they looked so much better.
Be that as it may, Muir says he is looking forward to Loftus, not so much because he particularly relishes seeing his men perform in front of the partisan Pretoria crowd, but because the venue should be more conducive to the Sharks style of rugby.
And the Crusaders showed that the key to beating the Bulls is a fast paced game, with the ELVs making it more difficult to grind it out through the forwards.
The Crusaders face the Stormers on Friday night in a match no-one will be expecting the Stormers to win, particularly now that Schalk Burger has been ruled out. However, a competitive showing from Jean de Villiers’s men will go some way towards regaining some of that pride SA rugby lost at Loftus as wel as quietening some of the doomsayers.
The Lions face a similar challenge against a Western Force team that is much more formidable than many critics may think, and which should start as favourites to win in Johannesburg in the early local game on Friday night.Tweet