The Sharks should alternate between Frans Steyn and Pat Lambie at No 10 rather than persist with the raw Tim Swiel, writes JON CARDINELLI.
Sharks director of rugby Jake White has a difficult yet crucial decision to make. Lambie, his preferred flyhalf, will be available for selection this week after being sidelined for four months. Does White push Lambie straight into the starting side, or does he stick with the inexperienced Swiel regardless of the importance of the coming game at Newlands?
Does White consider a third option, that is moving Steyn from No 12 to 10 for the coastal derby, and does he reintroduce Lambie from the bench later in the contest?
White's decisions over the next week will have a bearing on whether the Sharks host a semi-final or not. He has to select the player who is best equipped to deal with the Sharks' next opponents. He also has to back someone at No 10 who has the ability to steer the Sharks to a big victory.
It's likely that the Sharks will require four tries at Newlands this Saturday, and some will suggest that this is the reason why Swiel must be backed. The 21-year-old is an exciting player in space, and has an exceptional turn of speed. Of the flyhalves at the Sharks' disposal, Swiel is the most attack-minded.
However, to back Swiel would be to play into the Stormers' hands. Swiel has been creative in his rookie season, but he's also been erratic. His decision-making and game management needs work, and his defence is, at this stage of his career, a liability.
If the Sharks stick with Swiel this Saturday, the Stormers will target his channel just as the Cheetahs did in Bloemfontein last week. The Cape side will also look to use their abrasive defence as a weapon, and pressure Swiel into making mistakes. They will look to capitalise on the Sharks' attacking errors, and translate counter-attacking opportunities into points.
Of the Sharks' flyhalves, Lambie is the man capable of providing the side with the necessary balance between attack and defence. Lambie showed in the initial rounds of the competition that he has the running game, the tactical kicking ability, and the defensive resolve required to win a Super Rugby title. Prior to his injury, he was one of the tournament's most accurate goal-kickers.
And yet, it may take some time for Lambie to settle. When Dan Carter returned from a six-month sabbatical, the Crusaders didn't push the All Blacks veteran straight into the starting side, nor did they burden him with the goal-kicking duties. It may be asking a bit much for Lambie to start at Newlands, to find his radar in front of goal, and to slot into a back division that he hasn't played with in four months.
This leaves White with Steyn, his go-to man for much of the 2014 season. Steyn is a No 12 specialist, and White has been open about the fact. Nevertheless, Steyn has spearheaded some big wins from that No 10 position. His kicking game has been influential, as has physicality in that first-receiver channel.
The Sharks will need to win big this Saturday, but they must avoid the mistake made by so many who have been in similar situations before. The Sharks need to ensure that they win the game first before pushing for those four tries. And above everything, they can't afford to concede too many points.
The Stormers will test the Sharks physically. The Sharks have to meet this challenge, and they have to play the game in the right areas.
This is where Steyn will be key with his formidable kicking game. His goal kicking could also be a factor as the Sharks look to pile on the points in the first half.
Lambie should have a role to play at flyhalf in the second stanza, but Steyn must start in the position if the Sharks hope to set the platform for a big win.
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