Right, now that both teams have been finalised, let’s do a comparison of the lineups and see where the advantage, if any, may lie.
The front row:
For the Sharks, starting will be Beast Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and Jannie du Plessis. Combined weight is 345kg and they boast a total of 87 Sharks Currie Cup caps (and 74 test caps) between them. Jannie also has a few years’ worth of Currie Cup caps for Free state thrown in. Up against them are the Province trio of JD Moller, Deon Fourie and Brock Harris, who weigh in at a combined 331kg, giving the Sharks a weight advantage of almost 5kg a man in the front row. None of the Province front row has been capped by the Springboks and they boast 151 Currie Cup caps between them. On the bench, the Sharks have Eugene van Staden (118kg) and Craig Burden (100kg) against Province’s JC Kritzinger (116kg) and Hanyani Shimange (104kg). While Shimmie is the most experienced man there (9 tests), it’s been a long time since he played at that level. Few could argue that van Staden and Burden are the players with form behind them at the moment.
Verdict: On paper, the Sharks front row should dominate this contest, hands down.
The second row:
The Sharks have Alistair Hargreaves (2.01m and 114kg) and Steven Sykes (1.98m and 118kg) starting at lock. Hargreaves will be the only capped lock on the park having played in just two test matches. The pair boast 113 Currie Cup caps between them. On the Province side, Anton van Zyl (1.93m and 111kg) and Adriaan Fondse (1.96m and 116kg) will start and they have far more Currie Cup caps from their previous provinces than their combined total of 39 for WP. The combined weights are roughly equal, with the Sharks around 2kg a man heavier on average. Height is one area where the Sharks clearly dominate, though, with Hargreaves in particular a full 8cm taller than his opponent. Both sides boast greenhorns on the bench – the Sharks have Anton Bresler (1.98m and 112kg with 3 caps) and Province have de Kock Steenkamp (1.97m, 108kg and 12 caps).
Verdict: This one is closer, but the Sharks still edge it slightly.
That gives the Sharks supremacy in the tight five overall, with the starting weight advantage of 577kg to 558kg in their favour.
The loose forwards:
The Sharks will be starting with Keegan Daniel (1.88m and 94kg), Willem Alberts (1.92m and 119kg) and Ryan Kankowski (1.93m and 107kg). Only Kankowski has been capped by the Boks (16 times) and the trio boast 130 Currie Cup caps for the Sharks between them, with Alberts bringing a fair few more from his Lions days. Up against them are Schalk Burger (1.93m and 112kg), Francois Louw (1.96m and 112kg) and Duane Vermeulen (1.93m and 111kg). Burger and Louw boast 70 test caps between them, and the trio has a combined 95 Currie Cup caps for Province, with Vermeulen having also represented the Pumas and the Cheetahs at this level. The Sharks weigh in at a combined 320kg, against Province’s heftier 335kg. The Sharks boast an average height of 1.91m against 1.94m for Province. On the bench, the Sharks have the more experienced player in Jacques Botes (1.82m, 99kg and 84 caps), while Pieter Louw (1.91m, 96kg and 52 caps) has been in superb form of late.
Verdict: On paper, Western Province have a bigger and more experienced loose trio. The individual form of Daniel and Alberts does even things up a little, but not enough to tip this contest in the Sharks’ favour.
The Sharks are slightly ahead in the total pack weight stakes, with 897kg playing 892kg. On balance, we’ll give the Sharks overall supremacy up-front, based on the clear gulf in class between the respective front rows. It’s going to be tight, though.
Comparisons of height and weight mean little amongst the halfbacks, meaning we need to have a more subjective look here. The Sharks duo of Charl McLeod and Patrick Lambie cannot boast the experience of their counterparts, Ricky Januarie (47 test matches) and Willem de Waal. The latter, in particular, has been playing in (and winning) Currie Cup finals since Lambie started high school. The bench evens things up alarmingly, though, with Rory Kockott and Andre Pretorius (31 tests) clearly edging their Province counterparts Dewaldt Duvenage and Lionel Cronje in terms of experience.
Verdict: The Sharks halfbacks are in better individual form and they have better bench options, despite Province’s better experience. Ricky Januarie is a wiley customer and De Waal’s boot is always a threat, but McLeod and Lambie, as a combination, better suit the game their side wants to play. We give this to the Sharks, but not by a huge amount.
The centres: The Sharks will start with Andries Strauss (1.86m and 97kg) and Stefan Terblanche (1.87m and 95kg) who boast 139 Currie Cup caps for the Sharks, along with Terblanche’s 37 test caps. Up against them are the veteran Jean de Villiers (1.9m and 103kg) and Juan de Jongh (1.77m and 85kg) and with the Province pair boasting 69 (recent) test caps between them, the fact that, as a pair, they have relatively few Currie Cup caps doesn’t really matter. On the bench, the Sharks have another big man in Riaan Swanepoel (1.83m and 103kg) while Province’s Paul Bosch is a more moderate 1.8m and 86kg.
Verdict: No matter which way you look at this contest, Province wins it hands down. The Sharks centres are defensively very solid – porbably about as good as their Province counterparts, but on attack, the men from the Cape have no equal.
The back three: The Sharks will start with Lwazi Mvovo (1.85m and 91kg), Odwa Ndungane (1.84m and 96kg) and Louis Ludik (1.83m and 92kg). Only Ndungane has been capped by the Boks, on 7 occasions. There’s not really much point in quibbling about domestic caps here. Their Province counterparts, Bryan Habana (1.80m and 94kg), Gio Aplon (1.75m and 74kg) and Conrad Jantjes (1.83m and 90kg) boast 100 test between them.
Verdict: The only place where the Sharks stack up well here is in terms height and weight, where each man is bigger than his opponent. This is particularly clear on the Sharks left wing, were there would appear to be a big mismatch between Mvovo and Aplon. We have all seen how each of the Province back three can be match-winners in their own right, none more so than Habana and despite some concerns over individual form, this contest has to go the way of the visitors.
So, on the final anlysis, the Sharks have better forwards and Province have better backs. It sure took a LONG time to confirm what everybody already knew. We’re going to make a bold prediction here and give this game to the Sharks, by 5 points, based purely on home ground advantage.Tweet