I’ve looked at the Blues tight five and I think we can beat them there.
The key here is to start with the strongest tight 5 we can, meaning starts for Jannie du Plessis at loosehead, Skipper Badenhorst (!!!) at hooker and Steven Sykes at lock.
Sure, Skip can’t throw for shit, but he’s a lot bigger than Burden is and a technically better scrummager. Sykes might not be at his sharpest yet, but he’s a big boy with just the sort of mean streak you need to keep the Blues in check.
What is absolutely crucial for the Sharks is that we don’t weaken our bench. This might sound absurd, but the introduction of Beast, Burden and Albert in the second half is our real trump-card in the pack. We need to keep those guys fresh for a late onslaught, meaning taking a few chances in the run-on team.
The Blues didn’t start with Mealamu last year. They relied on the impressive Derren Whitcombe to do the damage in the opening periods and then brought troll-face on later to play an open game. Mealamu might be suited to the ELV’s, but he is not strong player when it comes to the tight phases. Tire him out and the Blues only have the unheralded Tom McCartney to come on. John Afoa and Tony Woodcock are strong props, but the Sharks lads bested them with some ease last year. BJ is still there and Jannie is a better scrummager than Carstens, so we have essentially gone forward here. The Blues have the uncapped Bronson Murray as their prop reserve; we have Beast. Again, no contest.
Troy Flavell is a dangerous customer, but he’s also a retreaded flanker. Last year, the Blues had a huge lock pairing in Williams and Rawlinson, but Muller and Ackies handled them superbly. Both of the aforementioned players have left, weakening the Blues second row substantially as a result. We don’t have Ackermann anymore, but Muller is having a superb season and Sykes will just need to go out there and do what we know he is capable of. Again, we have the experienced Al van den Berg to come on in the second 40, whereas the Blues’ Bryn Evans is a rookie at this level.Tweet