Another accurate effort on defence and at the breakdown should see the Sharks secure an important win over the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
The Sharks produced undoubtedly the best performance of their season last weekend as they outplayed the Hurricanes to claim their fifth win of the season and close in on the Lions, who now hold just a one-point advantage at the top of the Africa 2 conference.
It was a victory founded on good old-fashioned grunt work, with the Sharks again putting in the hard yards on defence (154 tackles made with just 32% of possession), while they were solid at scrum time and dominated the Hurricanes’ lineout.
In addition, the Sharks’ physicality at the collisions and excellent endeavour at ruck time enabled them to win 16 turnovers. Most importantly, though, this time around the Sharks made the most of their opportunities and displayed greater patience with ball in hand.
It was another clear indication that the Sharks have begun to find that improved balance to their play, as illustrated by SARugbymag.co.za’s Opta-powered stats, which indicated that they also managed to beat 25 defenders, make 26 offloads and ran 638m.
Having now travelled across to Argentina, the Sharks are set to face a different sort of challenge as they take on a Jaguares team that has flattered to deceive this season, but that continues to offer an unpredictability on attack. The Jaguares hammered the Kings 73-27 in their last match and are coming off a bye, but before that they suffered a shock loss to the Sunwolves – their seventh defeat of the season.
The team from Argentina have lacked accuracy across a number of key facets of their game. They’ve made 163 handling errors, missed 215 tackles and battled at the set pieces, where they’ve had just 85% lineout success and 82% scrum success, while they’ve been far too loose with ball in hand and on defence.
The Jaguares lost their other two games in Buenos Aires this year, but those results against the Stormers and Chiefs were decided by five points or less, and they will be happy to be at home. There is no doubt the Sharks will be expecting a hostile reception on Saturday, but if they stick to the blueprint that has begun to reap rewards for them, the Durban-based side should come away with a second win over the Jaguares this season.
Pat Lambie is set to make his first start in the tournament at flyhalf and will be looking to replicate the sort of impressive performance he produced for the Boks in Buenos Aires last year, while forwards Jean Deysel, Giant Mtyanda and Coenie Oosthuizen will be aiming to make the most of their starting opportunities.
HEAD TO HEAD
Overall: Sharks 1, Jaguares 0
In Buenos Aires: N/A
STATS AND FACTS
– This will be the second meeting between the sides in Super Rugby, with the Durban-based side having emerged as 19-15 winners in round two.
– The Jaguares won their last game by 46 points, although six of their eight games prior to that had been settled by eight points or fewer.
– The Sharks’ last four away games outside South Africa have all seen a losing bonus point attained (won two, lost two).
– The Sharks have averaged the most turnovers won per game so far (nine). André Esterhuizen has won a team high of 12, but six other players have chipped in with five or more.
– The Sharks have benefited from the poorest goal-kicking from their opposition of any side this season (60%).
|Team||Top point-scorer||Top try-scorer||Most metres gained||Most tackles|
|Jaguares||Nicolás Sánchez (65)||Martín Landajo (5)||Emiliano Boffelli (331)||Pablo Matera (59)|
|Sharks||Joe Pietersen (72)||Lwazi Mvovo (3)||Willie le Roux (505)||André Esterhuizen (107)|
Sharks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie (c), 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Chilliboy Ralepelle/Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Garth April, 23 S'bura Sithole/Joe Pietersen.
Jaguares – 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Emiliano Boffelli, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Juan Martín Hernández, 11 Manuel Montero, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Javier Ortega Desio, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Matías Alemanno, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Santiago García Botta.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Facundo Gigena, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Santiago González Iglesias, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Referee: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Juan Sylvestre (Argentina), Damian Schneider (Argentina)
TMO: Santiago Borsani (Argentina)
Photo: Anesh Debiky/Getty Images