Curwin Bosch and the Sharks look set for a tactical battle of Test-match proportions in the clash against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires this Saturday, writes JON CARDINELLI.
The final two rounds of the conference stage will make for fascinating viewing, at least as far as the battle for playoff places is concerned.
The Jaguares – who are currently six points clear at the top of the South African conference – look set to claim their first title since joining the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament in 2016. South African teams like the Sharks are scrapping for wildcard places.
The Sharks are under pressure to come away from the fixture with some sort of reward. Failure to do so will heap the pressure on Robert du Preez’s team ahead of the regular season finale against the Stormers at Newlands.
The contest in Buenos Aires promises to be one for the purists. Both teams have favoured a more pragmatic game in 2019, as the kicking stats below suggest. The side that wins the battle of the boot on Saturday should emerge victorious.
In this respect, no player is more important than Curwin Bosch for the Sharks. Bosch has improved steadily since receiving the opportunity to start regularly at No 10 on the tour of Australasia. His kicking game has boosted the Sharks’ quest to win territory and ultimately suffocate opposition teams into submission.
|JAGUARES||47 (8)||24 (4)||8,064 (14)||64 (15)||102 (14)|
|SHARKS||37 (12)||27 (3)||8,680 (10)||78 (12)||119 (9)|
*Tournament rank in brackets
Overall, the Sharks rank fifth in the tournament for kicks from hand and seventh for kick metres. Their attack hasn’t impressed with regards to try-scoring – they’re ranked 12th in this department – but they are at third in the competition for penalty goals.
Those numbers speak volumes for their approach. While they have some gifted attacking players – Bosch, Lukhanyo Am, S’bu Nkosi, Makazole Mapimpi and Aphelele Fassi – they don’t break the line that often or offload in the tackle as much as other teams (they’re ranked 12th and ninth in these departments).
|JAGUARES||35 (13)||342 (1)||10,439 (1)||147 (3)|
|SHARKS||34 (14)||282 (5)||8,410 (7)||117 (9)|
*Tournament rank in brackets
The Jaguares, however, have taken that sort of approach to the next level. The change in flyhalf – with Joaquín Díaz Bonilla and Domingo Miotti doing a fine job since Nicolas Sanchez departed at the end of last season – has done nothing to hamper their kicking prowess.
The Jaguares have kicked more than any other team in 2019, with 342 kicks from hand and 10,439 kick metres thus far. They’ve recorded the second-fewest offloads and running metres – only the Vodacom Bulls have managed fewer – as well as the fewest linebreaks.
Like the Sharks, they take the three points when they are on offer, as their fourth-place ranking in the penalty-goal category suggests.
Unlike the Sharks, the Jaguares’ discipline has been erratic this season. Only the Sunwolves and Crusaders have conceded more penalties.
The Sharks would do well to exploit this weakness on Saturday. In front of goal, Bosch has enjoyed an 81% success-rate to date.
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