JON CARDINELLI and RYAN VREDE analyse the big Vodacom Super Rugby game at Kings Park.
The Sharks should have put away the Hurricanes in the first half of the most recent clash in Durban. Instead, they allowed the Hurricanes to pressure them at the breakdowns and collisions, and disrupt their forward momentum. This is something to bear in mind as they approach a contest against another limited yet potentially dangerous team, the Lions.
The Sharks must take all points on offer in the first half and create pressure via the scoreboard. This will ensure that the Lions are forced to play catch-up and thus compromise the structure that has made them effective.
A clinical first-half effort that leads to a commanding lead for the hosts will also take Marnitz Boshoff out of the game. The Lions will need more than penalties and drop goals if they are trailing by a big margin.
Expect a fierce performance by the Sharks forwards in the opening 40, and flyhalf Pat Lambie to play for territory. Once the damage is done, at the ruck and on the scoreboard, then we should see the Sharks' dangerous backs cutting loose in the final quarter and securing the bonus point.
If the Lions stay in the game until the death, then Marnitz Boshoff could be the man to clinch another big upset. But I can't see this contest being that close.
Prediction: Sharks by 12
The Lions' bubble burst last weekend and they'll take a proper hiding against the Sharks in Durban.
The Sharks were slightly off the pace in their clash with the Hurricanes, particularly at the gainline, where they should be dominating a team of the Kiwis' calibre. This had an adverse effect on their game plan as a whole, and will have to be remedied if they're to put the Lions away with the bonus point they should be targeting.
Certainly the Lions have shown defensive improvement and a better tactical decision-making thus far. Most notably, Marnitz Boshoff's boot has been utilised effectively in open play and from the kicking tee. Their success has been rooted in giving him the time and space to maximise that strength, and I can't see the Sharks being as charitable as the Cheetahs and Stormers were in this regard.
The Bulls managed to awaken the 'old' Lions through the pressure they created through their territorial dominance, forcing the Jozi franchise to gamble from deep. I suspect the Sharks will follow a similar route. Only they are much better equipped to punish the Lions from broken field than the Bulls were.
Expect the Lions to resist for around 50 minutes before they are swept away by a black tidal wave.
Prediction: Sharks by 20
Sharks – 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (c), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 S'bura Sithole.
Lions – 15 Marnitz Boshoff, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Chrysander Botha, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Subs: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Corné Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 MB Lusaseni, 20 Willie Britz, 21 Ross Cronjé, 22 JW Jonker, 23 Coenie van Wyk.
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images