Two former Springboks on how far the Sharks and Lions will progress in the Super Rugby playoffs.
‘It’s going to be a real challenge for the Sharks to advance beyond the quarter-finals. The guys played a physical game against the Jaguares last Saturday and then had to travel to New Zealand on Sunday morning to play against the defending champion Crusaders this Saturday.
‘The odds are stacked against the Sharks; no one thinks they have a chance. In saying that, a team is never 100% out of a contest; there’s always a chance of an upset, and the Sharks have shown they can stand up when they have their backs against the wall.
‘After losing to the Rebels and Brumbies in Australia, nobody gave them a chance of winning in New Zealand, but they went and thrashed the Blues and almost beat the Hurricanes.
‘I’d say the Sharks do have a chance of winning against the Crusaders, but it’s a very slim one.
‘The game between the Lions and Jaguares is going to be epic because both teams play a similar brand of rugby, where they just throw the ball around and express themselves.
‘The Lions are playing in a home quarter-final for the third year in a row, so that makes them favourites, and if they win they will get a home semi-final. They’ve got the players and belief to get to the final again.’
‘The Sharks did fantastically well to sneak into the playoffs with that great win over the Jaguares last week. They’ve got a tough challenge in front of them, though. The Crusaders are the reigning champions and one of the best defensive teams, their set-piece is out of the top drawer – especially the scrum – and most importantly they score tries; they are the joint top scorers with the Lions.
‘It’s been an interesting ride for the Sharks. They’ve improved immensely and there are lots of positive signs, but unfortunately, they are just too inconsistent. I can’t see them turning the Crusaders over in Christchurch. I think their journey will end this weekend.’
‘It’s been a brilliant effort again by the Lions again this season. While not as impressive as last year’s campaign, the fact that they won the South African conference after losing their coach [Johan Ackermann] and some players [to injury] says a lot about the depth at the union at the moment.
‘It’s great to see guys like Courtnall Skosan, Warren Whiteley, Malcolm Marx and Ruan Combrinck back. They’ve been hugely instrumental since returning from injury and are all regaining the form that made them Springboks.
‘It’s great to see the team functioning so well and being top of the try-scoring charts. It just shows that they play a progressive game and are not scared to take on defenders.
‘It’s going to be an interesting quarter-final for them on Saturday, because the Jaguares like throwing the ball around. They have the highest pass-completion rate and are up there with the best in terms of offloads. I expect it to be quite an open game.
‘The Lions have a favourable draw and I can see them going through to the final, which will most likely be away against the Crusaders. Although I’d love to see the Lions win, I don’t see anybody beating the Crusaders.’
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