A combination of tour fatigue, the lack of a steady pivot and their diabolical Australian record will conspire to down the Sharks in Perth on Saturday. I want to be wrong here, chaps, but I’m afraid I just can’t see any light at the end of this week’s tunnel.
I’m looking for a seriously improved showing from the Sharks pack, with the tight five actually bothering to pitch for this week’s game – maybe hit a ruck or two, force a turnover? Who knows. Just about anything would be an improvement on last week’s shambles. The BIG Force back row will prove a handful, though and I expect to see them make a fair bit of ground through number 8 Richard Stanford, much as the Reds’ wrecking ball Leroy Houston did in Brisbane. The Sharks seem to go to sleep when faced with a large ball carrier in the back row – the damage done to us over the years by the likes of Sione Lauaki and Rocky Elsom is still fresh in my mind.
It’s at the back, though, where the Sharks are going to struggle most. I just don’t see the green combination of Kockott, Steyn and Swanepoel having the required cohesion to upset a Giteau-led Force back division. Steyn needs acres of space and oodles of time to be effective at pivot and I fear he will have neither. We can only hope that he keeps a cool head and minimises the damage, but even with my most pathetically pro-Sharks glasses on I just can’t see a way for him to get one over the little Aussie wizard. It’s going to be the Giteau show out there on Saturday – unless the Sharks can get in a number of big hits early on in the game and disrupt his focus.
The next two weeks are going to be crucial for the Sharks and I for one would rather see us regroup properly back in Durban for a crunch showdown against the Brumbies, than throw everything into achieving an unlikely victory against the Force, only to risk our first home defeat in two years a week later. The character of this team is going to be sorely tested and I hope, nay pray, that’s we’ll be equal to that test.
In the other games, I see the Matfield-less Bulls losing to the Canes, the Highlanders beating the Cheetahs, just like everybody else, the Blues scraping past the Chiefs and the Waratahs beating the Crusaders in Sydney. Oh – and in case anybody still cares about the Lions, their is a small chance that they could bounce back in style and give the Brumbies a big klap. More likely, though, is that the ponies will run wild all over the highveld pussies on their way to a BIG win.
It’s rugby time… bring it on!Tweet