robdylan

Stormers v Sharks: previewing a classic clash


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Stormers, Super Rugby on 11 Mar 2016 at 11:30
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , ,

Tomorrow afternoon at Newlands sees a titanic struggle take place between two of Super Rugby’s early pacesetters, the Stormers and the Sharks. With both sides unbeaten in two starts and on top of their respective conference tables, one could rightly say this clash should showcase the strength of South African rugby (even though the Lions deserve to be very much lumped in the same category this year).

We’ve spoken a fair bit about the history between these two teams, pointing out that there is quite literally nothing to separate them over 18 years of Super Rugby clashes. All of that will count for nothing on the day, though and the focus of this piece is rather to look at the game itself.

The Stormers have opted to make changes for this clash, with only one of those injury-enforced. Kurt Coleman is in at flyhalf for the unlucky Rob du Preez in a change that many feel will weaken the Stormers back division. I’m not too convinced on this point; while it’s true that Coleman can blow hot and cold, he’s capable of turning in some fine play at flyhalf and certainly has a good boot, which may prove invaluable on a day such as this. It’s the rotational changes upfront that are more significant, to my mind, with coach Robbie Fleck opting to pick the burliest, beastliest tight five he can field in anticipation of a massive contest in the tight phases. Frans Malherbe and JC van Rensburg start at prop, while in the loose trio, a bit of a shuffle sees Schalk Burger move to 8, with Siya Kolisi starting and Sikhumbuzo Notshe moving to the bench. I’m not sure I completely understand this logic, if I’m honest… on the one hand, Notshe really isn’t a traditional opensider and Fleck is perhaps worried about putting him up against Marcell Coetzee, hence the decision to move Nizaam Carr into the number 6 jersey. Schalk Burger is a good defender and at number 8 will have a lot of work to do keeping both of the du Preez twins busy, as well as dropping back to help his smaller back three defend against the hard-running Sharks. It’s going to be a busy day at the office for the veteran and Fleck might be taking a bit of a gamble, since Schalla is no longer the quickest man on the park.

The Sharks, in contrast, have not made any changes and Gary Gold’s thinking here is interesting. He’s talked about “not fixing what isn’t broken” and while those who watched the somewhat laboured win over the Jaguares might come to a different conclusion, I think I understand what the Sharks Director of Rugby is saying here. His players didn’t perform terribly well last week – he asked them for a big second half effort and they gave him that, pulling a win out of the fire when it looked rather unlikely. To not give those same players a chance to redeem themselves this week would show a lack of faith on the coach’s part and would, I feel, ultimately do the squad more harm in the long run. Gold prides himself on not making emotional decisions and prefers to be dispassionate in making selections; dropping a player after a single bad game, he feels, would be just such a knee-jerk emotional call. Let’s not forget, after all, just how we were singing the praises of the likes of Dan du Preez and Odwa Ndungane after the Kings game. Perhaps it’s a blessing that the coaches have longer memories than we do!

Much has been made of the set piece contest in this match and I will admit to licking my lips, as a former tight forward myself. Fleck has left nothing to chance here, backing his best props to deliver early scrum dominance and hopefully use this as a platform from which to attack (or failing that, as an easily milkable source of penalties). The Stormers scrum has been talked up in the press so far this season, but probably wasn’t really tested by a Bulls team who lack fire-power upfront in week 1. The Cheetahs are generally considered to have coped well against the Cape pack in week 2, so there’s perhaps a bit of a question mark there. The Sharks, on the other hand, are to me an unknown quantity upfront. Their scrums have been mostly good, but a little patchy at times and I’m not quite ready to write them off in this contest. I think the individual contests between Mtawarira and Malherbe, Oosthuizen and van Rensburg are going to be bloody fascinating. The scrum is not all about props, though and the Stormers boast the best lock pairing in the country, with both Etzebeth and du Toit very strong in the scrums, apart from everything else they do. The Sharks will do well to hold the Stormers pack in the first half, but I believe could well gain ascendancy later on, with Lourens Adriaanse fancied to get the better of direct opposite number Oli Kebble.

The lineout contest is also widely tipped to go the Stormers’ way, with the aforementioned lock pair wreaking great destruction against the Cheetahs last week in this phase. The Sharks, though, have a few potential advantages, not the least of which is the fact that Stephan Lewies and Pieter-Steph du Toit essentially “grew up” in the same place and know each other’s habits rather well. That could cut both ways, of course, but Lewies is rather underrated as a line out forward and I’d like to see what he can do against the competition’s best line-up. Etienne Oosthuizen is also not rated much as a lineout forward, but has yet to be bested on his own ball at 2 this year. The Sharks, I feel, have significantly more options at the tail of the lineout, though, with the Stormers lacking height in the back row. They may have two 2m+ monsters in the middle of the set piece, but with the du Preez twins and Philip van der Walt all accomplished and dependable lineout forwards themselves, I’d back the Sharks to dominate the contest further back and hopefully provide some quick attacking ball in this way.

Assuming the ball manages to get to the Sharks backs, I feel the contest suddenly becomes a lot more even – and perhaps even tips in slight favour of the visitors. With a new flyahlf, an outside centre at 12 and a relatively short (and inexperienced) back 3, I think the Stormers could be a little vulnerable against the Sharks’ attacking play. Let’s not for a moment underestimate just how hard the Sharks are going to have to work, though, in order to get that pill in the first place and one feels that turnover ball is likely to be vital here. Andre Esterhuizen has made his presence felt so far this year with some big tackles that tend to shut down opposition backline players and drive them backwards; he’ll be a critical player for the Sharks as they seek to dominate those tackle situations one or two passes out and hopefully get their hands on the ball to launch offensives of their own. Coleman’s kicking game will also need to be pinpoint if he’s to avoid unleashing the deadly Willie le Roux on the counter; on the other hand, the Sharks may well opt to favour the aerial route themselves and back the likes of JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane to win those contests as the ball comes down. Accuracy, again, will be key as we’ve yet to see the best of Cheslin Kolbe on the counter attack this year, but know how dangerous he can be.

A fascinating clash, as I’ve said and while the above points may prove decisive, there could be 100 other factors or areas of the game that will prove more so. It’s impossible to say with any certainty what will happen on the day – especially given the history of upsets between these two sides. I’m sticking with my heart-over-head call and give this one to the Sharks by a few points, but man, they will need to be right at the very top of their game to secure that result.

Go Sharks!



29 Comments

  • My biggest worry is lock (lineouts in particular)….and our old men in the wing – who knows which Jpp will pitch for this game.

  • Comment 1, posted at 11.03.16 11:56:56 by FireTheLooser Reply
    Assistant coach
     
  • It’s going to be an epic battle, hopefully with the Sharks going three from three!

  • Comment 2, posted at 11.03.16 11:58:12 by Bump Reply
    BumpSuper Rugby player
     
  • well written Rob!! Can’t wait for the game to start!! Go Sharks!!

  • Comment 3, posted at 11.03.16 12:31:01 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    JDAssistant coach
     
  • I understand heart over head
    Every professional pundit has the Sharks getting whipped and the stormers dominating. I hope the stormers are arrogant and look it and over the course of 80 minutes have those grins wiped from their faces. Realistically there will likely be a tussle and a few cards and boy do I hope it’s not the Sharks that are shown the yellow or red

  • Comment 4, posted at 11.03.16 12:53:38 by SeanJeff Reply
    Author
    SeanJeffSuper Rugby player
     
  • @SeanJeff (Comment 4) : Fleck having Dion Kayser flash backs

  • Comment 5, posted at 11.03.16 12:58:49 by The hound Reply
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  • If we can match and even best them at scrum time you will be seeing some very frustrated players out there, thats what Im hoping for but Im not really banking on it. That Stormers scrum (tight five) is something pretty close to being very special.

  • Comment 6, posted at 11.03.16 13:15:25 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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    Salmonoid the SubtleAssistant coach
     
  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 1) : You can ask that again?

  • Comment 7, posted at 11.03.16 13:22:57 by GreatSharksays Reply

    Assistant coach
     
  • Apologies for my anti stormer screed. I’m particularly morose after reading all the mainstream punditry. Should give it up

  • Comment 8, posted at 11.03.16 13:29:16 by SeanJeff Reply
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    SeanJeffSuper Rugby player
     
  • @SeanJeff (Comment 8) : Makes two of us, I see Ss is also predicting a stormers win, but we all know who they are using as half time and pre game commentators

  • Comment 9, posted at 11.03.16 13:35:15 by Henkb Reply
    Author
    HBAssistant coach
     
  • There was a moment last week where the Stormers ran a nice set move (I nearly died) but the problem was that it involved Kolbe coming in at pace, it went really well until he encountered the first defender. I reckon he made -2m with ball in hand with that play

  • Comment 10, posted at 11.03.16 13:37:10 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
    Administrator
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
     
  • Stormers have the advantage in the tight five (probably the best unit in the competition), but I think the Sharks have the better loose trio. Half backs I would give slight advantage to the Sharks, centers probably even (JdJ has caused Sharks teams grief in the past), wings (Sharks have the experience and size but the Stormers outright speed), fullbacks even.

    The Sharks tight five really need to step up big time for this game – then we are in with a shout.

  • Comment 11, posted at 11.03.16 13:41:01 by Bokhoring Reply
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    BokhoringAssistant coach
     
  • @Bokhoring (Comment 11) : Really dont think the Stormers got it right by playing Schalla at 8

  • Comment 12, posted at 11.03.16 13:44:47 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
    Administrator
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
     
  • Let them have the favourites tag.lets be honest: they have earned it based on last season’s sr and it is a home game for them.their scrum and line-out ,with etzebeth and psdt,is top-class.let that be motivation for the sharks.between the pundits calling final scores and the final whistle,is the small matter of 80 mins of rugby.let us as fans see how much the team has grown.and more importantly,let them see.

  • Comment 13, posted at 11.03.16 13:46:15 by 50shadesofshark Reply

    Team captain
     
  • @Clayton(PJLD) (Comment 12) : He has turned into a much smarter player nowadays (much more of a linking player than he used to be), but now he lacks the speed to make an impact at 6 or 8.

  • Comment 14, posted at 11.03.16 13:47:21 by Bokhoring Reply
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    BokhoringAssistant coach
     
  • @Bokhoring (Comment 14) : I thought they would have gone 6)Siya 7) Schalla 8) Carr

  • Comment 15, posted at 11.03.16 13:49:54 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
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    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
     
  • @Clayton(PJLD) (Comment 15) : That would have made more sense to me too.

  • Comment 16, posted at 11.03.16 13:51:00 by Bokhoring Reply
    Administrator
    BokhoringAssistant coach
     
  • Everyone and their dog is picking the Stormers, some by a substantial margin. The Sharks will need to show lots of character.

  • Comment 17, posted at 11.03.16 14:17:52 by Kiss_the_Gold Reply

    Gold's MemberTeam captain
     
  • @Clayton(PJLD) (Comment 15) : Same here.

  • Comment 18, posted at 11.03.16 14:22:01 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    vanmartinAssistant coach
     
  • @Kiss_the_Gold (Comment 17) : Madness

  • Comment 19, posted at 11.03.16 14:22:07 by Clayton(PJLD) Reply
    Administrator
    Clayton(PJLD)Team captain
     
  • @Kiss_the_Gold (Comment 17) : Okay, that was well done :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  • Comment 20, posted at 11.03.16 14:24:19 by vanmartin Reply
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    vanmartinAssistant coach
     
  • If I can have one wish, that would be for Andre to tackle the snot out of de Jong

  • Comment 21, posted at 11.03.16 14:26:25 by KingRiaan Reply

    KingRiaanTeam captain
     
  • @KingRiaan (Comment 21) : de Jong loves scoring against us so that would be lovely :grin:

  • Comment 22, posted at 11.03.16 14:44:20 by vanmartin Reply
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    vanmartinAssistant coach
     
  • @Kiss_the_Gold (Comment 17) : hahahaha ja boet lots and lots!!!!!!!!!! :twisted: :shock:

  • Comment 23, posted at 11.03.16 14:45:58 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    JDAssistant coach
     
  • @Kiss_the_Gold (Comment 17) : Yes definitely big character needed in this game, from both teams, and I’m sure the one with the best character in the 80 minutes will prove they are worthy of exceptional character building through the off season

  • Comment 24, posted at 11.03.16 15:10:48 by Henkb Reply
    Author
    HBAssistant coach
     
  • @vanmartin (Comment 22) : @KingRiaan (Comment 21) : must say I can do without him scoring against us!!!!!!!!

  • Comment 25, posted at 11.03.16 15:32:03 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    JDAssistant coach
     
  • @Henkb (Comment 24) : That reminds me of this: http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/every-sports-interview-ever-comic.jpg

  • Comment 26, posted at 11.03.16 15:34:56 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    vanmartinAssistant coach
     
  • @vanmartin (Comment 26) : Will check it out on the pc, the app doesn’t allow me to click on the link and check it out

  • Comment 27, posted at 11.03.16 15:42:34 by Henkb Reply
    Author
    HBAssistant coach
     
  • @vanmartin (Comment 26) : yes I know a lot of people with have that ability!! Talking a lot without saying anything!!!! :shock:

  • Comment 28, posted at 11.03.16 15:50:10 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    JDAssistant coach
     
  • Those Netball players really,the Cape rugby press and sheople always talk them up ,in fac after two roundst they have already won the SR trophy yet AGAiN,don’t write the Sharks off

  • Comment 29, posted at 11.03.16 17:12:46 by benji Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Team captain
     

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