Pat Lambie has a key role to play for the Sharks in dictating the match against the Lions at Kings Park on Saturday, writes BRENTON CHELIN.
The Sharks are in the midst of an identity crisis. Four coaches in three years – each with their own philosophy and 'brand' of rugby – will do that to you.
Add to that the melee of coaches who currently preside at Kings Park and it's easy to see why the Sharks struggled to show their true identity against the Cheetahs. They know who they want to be, but they're not there yet.
The late arrival of director of rugby Gary Gold hasn't helped, with technical director Brendan Venter filling in during pre-season. The Sharks played like a team coached by two coaches. One game plan revolved around a strong good kicking game; the other a ball-in-hand approach. Neither worked particularly well.
Lambie was one of the few players to arrive on day one, and ended the tournament's top point-scorer after week one. He has been successful under every coach he's played with at the Sharks, and will be integral in controlling the Sharks' tempo against the Lions. If he kicks cleverly, and well, the Lions could play into the Sharks' hands.
Johan Ackermann's side were on the receiving end of a 'rope-a-dope' against the Hurricanes. They ran themselves off their feet with their devil-may-care attitude, and were punished for their naivety by the more experienced Canes. They'll need to show more smarts on Saturday if they're to end their poor record at Kings Park.
The Sharks will welcome back captain Bismarck du Plessis for this one, while Dale Chadwick replaces Tendai Mtawarira in the front row. Elsewhere, Lubabalo Mtyanda will make his debut alongside Pieter-Steph du Toit in the second row, while Odwa Ndungane replaces S'bura Sithole on the wing.
The Lions will be without openside Jaco Kriel, who misses the game with a groin injury. Warwick Tecklenburg has been promoted from the bench, with Derick Minnie shifting to the other side of the scrum. In the only other change to the starting XV, Jacques van Rooyen comes in at loosehead for Schalk van der Merwe, who drops to the bench.
If the Sharks can withstand the expected onslaught at the scrums, then Lambie and halfback partner Cobus Reinach have the ability to take control of proceedings.
At 24 years old and in a World Cup year, Lambie needs to start showing he can become the player we all hoped he would be. If he does that, then the Sharks will be one step closer to solving their identity crisis.
HEAD TO HEAD*
Overall: Sharks 15, Lions 4, Draw 1
In Durban: Sharks 10, Lions 1
*Includes results of Cats franchise (1998-2005)
STATS AND FACTS
– Only one of the last 14 contests between these sides has produced a Lions win (Sharks have won 12, one drawn).
– Both these sides made 124 carries last weekend; only the Brumbies (126) made more in round one.
– The Lions also made a round joint-high 170 passes, while the Sharks produced the joint-most offloads (19).
– The Sharks have won their last eight home games against the Lions, all by margins of 12-plus points.
– The Lions have won just three of their last 24 away games against fellow South African sides, with those three wins coming against the Cheetahs; the Lions have won just once in Durban with that win coming back in 2000.
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Sharks||Pat Lambie (24)||Lwazi Mvovo & Pat Lambie (1)||Lwazi Mvovo (125)||Marcell Coetzee (10)|
|Lions||Ruan Combrinck (5)||Ruan Combrinck (1)||Derick Minnie (61)||Howard Mnisi (7)|
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Heimar Williams, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Dale Chadwick.
Subs – 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Marco Wentzel, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Fred Zeilinga, 23 André Esterhuizen.
Lions – 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Derick Minnie, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Martin Muller, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1. Jacques van Rooyen.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Julian Redelinghuys, 19 JP du Preez, 20 Ruaan Lerm, 21 Faf de Klerk, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Harold Vorster.
Photo: Sabelo Mngoma/BackpagePix