Both the Sharks and Western Province have named sides with a fair few strengths, along with some glaring weaknesses. Let’s have a look at some of the key match-ups and try to predict a winner.
The immediate temptation is to look no further than the flyhalf duel; the general Willem de Waal, so good with the boot and so effective in the horrendous sort of weather that is predicted for Cape Town tomorrow, will surely have the better of Sharks rookie Guy Cronjé. De Waal is a proven match winner and provided he gets enough ball will look to turn the Sharks all day. Cronjé, in contrast, may one-day turn out to be a more rounded player than de Waal, but to compare him to the veteran in terms of kicking game right now hardly makes sense. Advantage Province.
It’s never quite as simple as that, though, as there’s a huge amount of stuff that needs to occur before the flyhalf gets the ball into his grubby hands – I’m talking, of course, about those “other guys” on the field, the ones wearing number lower than 10. The forwards, in particular, should be a very interesting area for further analysis. The Sharks have the better continuity in the tight 5 and certainly should look to dominate at scrum time, although the inclusion of a new hooker in Craig Burden could well disrupt them at the set pieces. They say that hooker and number 8 are the key positions in the forwards and for the Sharks, the only chink in their up-front armour may be the relative inexperience of Burden and Keegan Daniel in these positions.
The Stormers have exactly the opposite problem, with their two best forwards and possibly the form men for them in the Super 14, Tiaan Liebenberg and Luke Watson, operating at 2 and 8 respectively. They have the same set of soft props and the Sharks will look to target them in the scrums. Also, although their locks, Anton van Zyl and Chris Jack, are individually very talented, the tight five as a unit has never played together. The Sharks also have far more experience on the flanks, with Jean Deysel and Jacques Botes streets ahead of the two Pieters, Louw and Myburgh.
On the face of it, the Sharks should take it upfront and, provided they manage to hold onto the ball and get the rolling maul going, they might just have the wet-weather goods to take de Waal out of the game. Lineouts could be a lottery, but I feel that untried combinations on both sides could even the score here somewhat.
Next is the scrumhalf duel and each side, we have a pretty determined ball hogger and as a pair, they may well conspire to lessen the importance of the flyhalf battle. This could work more in the Sharks favour. Rory Kockott will operate as a fourth loose-forward and will also use his educated booth to take some pressure of his young flyhalf. Ricky Januarie’s service hadn’t been great this season and should his pack receive the expected hammering, de Waal might find that his scrumhalf struggles to get him any sort of reasonable ball. The Sharks have picked a very defensive centre combination as well and together with the loose forwards, they might look to further pressurise de Waal.
I don’t see the remainder of either backline coming into play much on attack, so the Sharks may just have got this one right by picking such a defensively-sound unit. Zuks Vulindlu is the one real unknown here and he will have his hands full keeping Frikkie Welsh quiet. The Province back three, of course, will probably look to counter-attack at all costs, but it’s only really Joe Pietersen in that unit that has any pace.
Wow – I started off believing that Province would walk this one, but since I’ve been through this thought process, I’ve actually started to believe that the Sharks may just take it, by 7 or less. Craig Burden and Guy Cronjé are the two key players who’s BMT will be sorely tested. Should either crack under the pressure, Province will win easily. Luke Watson and de Waal will be their key players and both have the ability to turn the match their team’s way.
Western Province: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Frikkie Welsh, 13 Morgan Newman, 12 Peter Grant, 11 Sireli Naqelevuki, 10 Willem De Waal, 9 Ricky Januarie, 8 Luke Watson (captain), 7 Pieter Louw, 6 Pieter Myburgh, 5 Anton Van Zyl, 4 Chris Jack, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Wicus Blaauw.
Replacements: 16 Hanyani Shimange, 17 JD Moller, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Deon Fourie, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Juan De Jongh, 22 Tonderai Chavhanga.
The Sharks: 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Andries Strauss, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 Luzuko Vulindlu, 10 Guy Cronjé, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller (captain), 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Deon Carstens.
Replacements: 16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Patric Cilliers, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Justin Downey/Ryan Kankowski, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Monty Dumond, 22 Chris Jordaan.
Referee: Jaco Peyper
Assistant referees: François Veldsman, Cobus Wessels
TMO: JC Fortuin