A smart attack key for Sharks

2013-03-02 00:00

THERE is no talk of revenge, but the Sharks are hoping that lessons taken from their Currie Cup final defeat in October will carry them to victory in tonight’s Super Rugby outing against the Stormers.

It was four months ago that the young, depleted Cape Town-based outfit arrived in Durban and upset, unsettled and beat the fancied Sharks in the final of the Currie Cup.

Months before, the Sharks had themselves proved party-poopers at Newlands when they emerged from nowhere and beat the Stormers in the Super Rugby semi-finals.

Sharks coach John Plumtree said that the irritation and hurt which followed the Currie Cup final defeat remains.

“But it has no relevance to this weekend’s contest. The media love making a big thing of revenge, but it means nothing. This is a different competition and our focus is on this game and it will be the same with them.

“The Stormers will also have their objective. This is a big derby game and both teams are desperate to win the conference.”

Still, the Sharks have learnt from that October defeat and hope that intense preparation and the change in personnel on both sides will favour them.

A major problem for the Sharks in that final was the lineout, where hooker Craig Burden failed to hit his jumpers and Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth flourished.

The Sharks, with fingers burnt, have placed a heavy emphasis on the lineout and have since signed Lions lock Franco van der Merwe.

Plumtree is also looking to number eight Ryan Kankowksi to play his role as a jumper and burly flank Jean Deysel, in for Jacques Botes, will add further brawn at the tail.

But more damaging for the Stormers is the loss of the influential Etzebeth to injury.The towering Springbok lock Andries Bekker, who missed the final, is back and being the tallest player in Super Rugby, he will create problems of his own, but Plumteee is satisfied with the improvement in the Sharks’ lineout play.

“We saw that last weekend against the Cheetahs, who historically put us under pressure in that area. Craig Burden and then Kyle Cooper threw in beautifully and a lot of work was done on our lineout in the pre-season. The Stormers will look to put us under pressure in that area and we’ll have to be accurate.”

The Stormers, in losing to the Bulls last Friday, have had a long week to work on their problem areas.

“The Stormers weren’t happy with their setpiece at Loftus and they will have worked hard to make sure we don’t dominate.

“You certainly can’t expect that it will again be a problem for them,” said Plumtree.

The Sharks have had their own cracks to paper over, their shoddy work in the breakdown and moments of poor defence against the Cheetahs.

“The Stormers have boasted the best defence in the competition in recent years and scoring tries against them is not easy,” said Plumtree. “We need to be smart on attack and we need quality ball. And so it comes back to accuracy at the setpiece.”

While the Stormers hope to apply pressure in the lineout, the Sharks will be looking to Springbok props Jannie de Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira to make a strong impact in the scrums.

The battle will be fought most fiercely on the gainline, where the Stormers’ backrow of Duane Vermeulen, Rynhardt Elstadt and Siya Kolisi will bump, and keep bumping, Kankowksi, Deysel and Marcell Coetzee as the teams seek physical domination.

There will be more subtlety in the duel of Springboks at flyhalf, where the Sharks’ Pat Lambie will want to pick up where he left off in Bloem while Elton Jantjies, after the nightmares of last Friday, is looking for a new beginning after his false start at Loftus.

The Sharks, in front of a demanding home crowd and fielding a settled, more cohesive team, a talented bench and a threatening backline built on the contrasting strengths of Lambie, Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen, should come away with a narrow, bruising win.

But nagging away is the thought that we said much the same on Currie Cup final day, October 27, 2012, and it was Allister Coetzee’s underdogs who popped up with the magic.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Francois Steyn (captain), 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Meyer Bosman, 22. Odwa Ndungane.

Stormers: 15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Gio Aplon, 13. Jean de Villiers (captain), 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Bryan Habana, 10. Elton Jantjies, 9. Nic Groom, 8. Duane Vermeulen (vice-captain), 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Siya Kolisi, 5. Andries Bekker, 4. De Kock Steenkamp, 3. Frans Malherbe, 2. Deon Fourie, 1. Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: 16. Martin Bezuidenhout, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Don Armand, 19. Nizaam Carr, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Peter Grant, 22. Gerhard van den Heever

Kick-off: 7.10 pm. Referee: Jonathan Kaplan.

Today’s fixtures (home team first, SA times): Chiefs v Cheetahs 8.35 am; Bulls v Force 5.05 pm; Sharks v Stormers 7.10 pm.

Byes: Brumbies, Highlanders, Kings

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