South Africa’s premier Kiwi slayers need to persist with their current tactics in order to go one better against the Chiefs, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Six days on, and opinion is still divided over what the Sharks achieved against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
It could be argued that any draw at the graveyard for South African Super Rugby teams is as good as a win. On the other hand, it could be said that the Sharks were the more dominant side over the 80 minutes, and should have clinched the contest when they had the chance.
Perhaps the Sharks have something more to prove against the Chiefs this week. Perhaps the near miss in Christchurch will ensure that complacency – a hallmark of the Sharks game in almost every second fixture over the course of the campaign – does not plague their play in Hamilton.
The Sharks are coming to the end of a challenging three-game tour to Australasia. A win in Hamilton will see them returning to South Africa with a two-from-three record and at least 10 log points. A loss could see them heading home with only six.
The Sharks put in a big shift in Christchurch. Coaches talk about players ’emptying the tank’, and that’s exactly what the Sharks did against the Crusaders.
They threw themselves into the collisions like there was no tomorrow. They combined for a whopping 183 tackles and shut down the best attacking side in the tournament for much of the game.
There is a tomorrow, though. The Sharks will have to do it all again this Saturday.
Hopefully the eight-day break between matches will allow the heavy hitters an opportunity to recuperate. The Sharks defence will need to be at its fearsome physical best to stop that Chiefs juggernaut from building momentum.
The log suggests that the Chiefs have been one of the most inconsistent teams on show in 2019. When they’ve got it right, however, they’ve blown teams off the park.
The Vodacom Bulls failed to meet the Chiefs’ physical challenge at the set-pieces and collisions and paid a hefty price. The Chiefs got their offload-game going, and by the end of the contest they had scored 56 points and seven tries.
According to Opta, the Chiefs rank second in the tournament for clean breaks and first for offloads. The teams that have been successful against the Chiefs have been the teams that have shut them down at source.
The Sharks – with one of the best defences and kicking games – have shown that they have the means to do that. Last week’s battle in the trenches may have taken a lot out of them. The coming performance and result could make or break their tour, though. They shouldn’t want for motivation.
The Sharks have been South Africa’s best performing side against New Zealand teams in recent years. They thrashed the Blues in Auckland last year and pushed the Hurricanes close in Wellington the following week. They beat the Highlanders and the Chiefs in Durban.
The Sharks have yet to lose to a Kiwi franchise in 2019. They scored a bonus-point win over the Blues in Durban in round two, and drew with the Crusaders last week.
A win against the Chiefs on Saturday will reaffirm their status as South Africa’s premier Kiwi slayers. It will also provide their campaign with a much-needed boost ahead of their return to South Africa.
Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix