Stormers coach John Dobson says Saturday’s coastal derby against the Sharks in Durban could have a massive impact on the South African conference. DYLAN JACK reports.
The Sharks are currently top of the South African conference and first overall following their victory over the Jaguares last weekend.
The Stormers, meanwhile, come into the match on the back of a humbling loss to the Blues at Newlands, which ended their unbeaten start to the season.
That has made this weekend all the more vital for the Stormers. In fact, it could be a vital next two rounds as the Stormers travel to face the Jaguares in Buenos Aires next weekend.
Win the next two and the Stormers are well set to finish top of the conference, but come out of the next two rounds winless and the pressure will be on just to make the playoffs.
‘It is a massive game for us,’ Dobson said. ‘It’s funny, the world can change quickly. In terms of the conference, in some ways, what happened last week was the best result for the conference for us. If the Jaguares start going well and we all have to win in Buenos Aires, it is tricky.
‘It will be a good result for us if we manage to go over there and get a win, which will be very tough. This is a conference-defining and potentially season-defining game for us.
‘It feels season-defining now, as we sit here. Obviously the conference games, with eight- or ten-point swings are vital. We know how fast the world can change. 10 days ago we were potentially the best team in Super Rugby and now if you read we really have slumped terribly. We were poor against the Blues, but the competition is still on.’
The Sharks are coming off a solid tour to New Zealand and Australia, where they managed to win three out of four games, dropping points in an injury-disrupted loss to the Hurricanes.
Sean Everitt’s side have undergone a transformation of their own since coming under his coaching. They have been impressive with their kick-and-chase game as well as their ability to transition from defence to attack in an instant, punishing opponents for any turnovers.
‘The Sharks have a massive kicking game and obviously live off turnovers,’ Dobson identified. ‘The Blues were really direct and pushed the tempo. Whereas the Sharks are third or fourth in the competition in terms of kicks – the number of kicks and kicking contestables.
‘Their transition from defence into attack is superb. Whereas the Blues were much more of a direct, carrying side and are really well disciplined, which isn’t what you would expect. I think the Sharks’ net penalties conceded is the biggest.’
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