There are two key factors that will determine whether the Sharks beat the Bulls tomorrow night.
The first is whether Steven Sykes is passed fit to play at lock. Alistair Hargreaves is the weak link in the Sharks tight five at the moment; he is too light and doesn’t play a tight enough game to suit the Sharks typical strength. With Sykes back in the number 4 jersey, the Sharks’ regular Super 14 lock partnership will be restored and the cohesion of the tight five as a whole will benefit.
The Sharks have, in BJ Botha, Jannie du Plessis and Deon Carstens, the best front-row depth in this year’s competition, bar none. The return of Botha for this game should offset any weakness (perceived or real) that Craig Burden’s tight performances have introduced. The fact that Burden’s opposite number Kuün is also learning the ropes at hooker should even out the contest somewhat. The new lineout laws are a paradigm shift which is already affecting all the rakes in this year’s competition and based on form to date, the Bulls number 2 is having just as much trouble adapting as Burden, or anyone else.
With tight five dominance assured, the other key factor is what sort of performance Nicolas Strauss turns in at blindside. He’s a complete unknown, one who disappeared off the Sharks radar a few years ago when any path into the Sharks team was blocked by the likes of Shaun Sowerby, Charl van Rensburg and (dare we say) Brad Mcleod-Henderson. He would appear to have taken his chances at Bedford and emerged as a crowd favourite, based on reports. That said, he has been playing in what amounts to the second division, so the Currie Cup is a definite step up from that level of competition. At 28 years old, he’s hardly a fresh youngster, though. All we can hope is that his time playing in the unforgiving English winters has made him hard as nails, because that’s what we’re going to need against the Bulls.
And that’s that, really. I will put my whatnots on the block and predict that, should we attain superiority up-front, we will win. Charl Macleod is going to be too much of a handful for that spanner the Bulls have at 9 this year and the further down the line you go, the more evident it becomes that it is the Sharks boys who have more skill and talent than their Bulls counterparts.
Come on Steve, come on Nic… we need you guys to come through for us tomorrow night.Tweet