The Sharks’ match against the Jaguares will act as an acid test of their capabilities against premier sides in the tournament such as the Crusaders, Chiefs and even Brumbies, writes former Springbok JAMES DALTON.
The Sharks backline has fired so far this season, behind a relatively inexperienced pack who have actually held their own. Saturday will be the perfect test of these young, but promising, forwards against a mature and settled Argentinian pack.
While they have been strong on attack and defence, and competitive at scrum time, the Sharks lineouts have been poor – in fact, statistically the worst in the tournament. This is a crucial element that needs to be addressed going forward, and that they can’t afford to neglect against the Jaguares.
The high penalty count racked up by the Sharks is another area of concern, especially against a team like the Jaguares who aren’t particularly disciplined either.
While the Sharks have impressed both myself and the rugby public, with their high-pressure, high-intensity style of rugby, they should be weary of letting this become their achilles heel, as on occasion their approach has imploded and backfired on them.
I’ve said it before: no team, no matter how conditioned, can keep up 80 minutes of rush defence week in and week out without it being to their detriment eventually. The Sharks should look to combine the rush approach with an inside-out defensive strategy which would ensure that they’re not left open on the outside as much.
SA teams need to be able to adjust from rush to inside out or outside in accordingly. On the topic of the outside, Sbu Nkosi’s return bodes well – he’s a huge asset and could definitely provide the spark that the Sharks will need come Saturday. It will be incredibly close but hopefully the Sharks can keep their momentum and come away with a narrow win.
Looking further down the coast to Cape Town, the Stormers’ implosion was bound to come some time, as they were continuing to rely on up-front dominance and when they didn’t get that against the Blues, were left a bit clueless as to how to respond.
They seemed to also lack urgency and were unable to get up and rectify their mistakes, which included 38 missed tackles. While many may feel the bye week offers a good break, I disagree. I think what is needed following a loss like the one the Stormers suffered, is to try to address the issues at training, put in a strong follow-up performance and then continue with the momentum from there.
South Africa’s interest will be in the returning Durbanites this weekend, as the Stormers rest, and my interest will be in whether their pack can stand their first real test yet.
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