I’ve just had another look at the Sharks team to face the Lions tomorrow and I must say, it’s an impressive outfit. Games are never won on paper, of course (or LCD… who reads anything on paper these days?) but I stand by my earlier prediction that the Sharks are going to seriously click and give the Lions a hiding.
Now that I’ve probably gone and jinxed them PROPERLY, let’s look at the reasons.
Sure, the Lions are going come out firing and throw everything at the Sharks. There’s a lot of talk of a revival, which I find interesting given that they are at 1 and 3 for the season, having managed a victory against the Leopards as their sole triumph in the first four rounds. They allegedly played impressive rugby against the Bulls last week, but it’s points that matter and the Blue chaps ended up with a fair few more of those in the final analysis. There are, of course, a few lads with points to prove, among them Waylon Murray, Warren Whiteley and Renaldo Bothma, all three of whom were recently part of the Sharks set up. The latter, in particular, is experiencing something of a whirlwind, having left Durban a few weeks ago disillusioned at having been cut from the Sharks under 21 squad. He now finds himself about to make his senior debut for the Lions against his old team. Whiteley is in a similar position, having accumulated a heap of age-group and Vodacom Cup caps for the Sharks, without getting a sniff of senior team action. He will want to show the Sharks that they were wrong to let him go.
If the Lions think the Sharks are just going to roll over, though and give them any satisfaction, they are horribly, horribly wrong. So much emphasis has been placed on Pat Lambie’s shift to flyhalf that we’re ignoring the fact that the Sharks have named the strongest pack that any side has yet to field in the 2010 Currie Cup, with Bok props Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis sure to wreak havoc against their far less experienced Lions counterparts. Expect a fiery performance from Craig Burden in between these two stalwarts, as he knows he needs to make the most of his starting opportunity, with Bismarck du Plessis lurking on the bench, eying his jersey with purpose. The loose trio, with Willem Alberts set to start the damage and Jean Deysel set to finish it later, has a far more balanced look and once the hard yards have been done, expect to see Jacques Botes come on to win his 100th Currie Cup cap, hopefully able to play a far freer game than he did against the Cheetahs.
There are some backs too, of course and it’s here that the Lions will like to think they hold an upper hand of some sort. While Elton Jantjes is a find, I can’t say I’m wholly convinced that he has the maturity and class of Pat Lambie just yet – I saw some quite average play from the young Lion at the IRB Junior World Champs – and with the Sharks holding virtually all the aces all over the park, I’d be very surprised if Lambie doesn’t deliver yet another impressive showing, built on the solid platform that his team mates will provide. With Charl McLeod (27 years young yesterday) and Dries Strauss on either side, he is surrounded by experienced players with maturity (in terms of years) on their side. That will prove invaluable as he adapts to the most demanding position in all of rugby.
So who is going to do the damage? Well, the whole team, of course, but don’t be too surprised to see the names Ryan Kankowski and JP Pietersen feature prominently on the score sheet at the end of 80 minutes.Tweet