Dangerous when cornered

2013-04-13 00:00

THE Stormers, teetering on the brink of failure and with the vocal locals at their backs, will be desperate to overcome the Sharks and revive their Super Rugby dream at Newlands this evening.

Allister Coetzee’s Stormers, 11th on the log on 16 points, have won only two of their first six matches this season. They trail the third-placed Sharks (25) by nine log points and defeat today will leave them with little chance of taking the high road to the play-offs by winning the South African conference.

There is less pressure on the Sharks this evening, but from the start of the season they have targeted this game as a likely conference decider. Victory today would be a considerable boost to their confidence and log position.

The attritional nature of this ill-conceived, exacting competition is taking a heavy toll.

“Both sides are in double figures in terms of injuries, which is alarming,” said Sharks coach John Plumtree. “Still, there is a lot of talent in both teams and it will be a good game.”

The Sharks appear the slightly more settled side — though still short of their best — and will hope to take advantage of the Stormers’ disruptions at halfback, where scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenage returns to partner third-choice flyhalf Gary van Aswegen.

The Sharks’ plan will be to exert pressure at the setpiece, forcing the Stormers to play behind the advantage line. The collisions on the gainline will be massive, but it has been the battle in the line-out which has been decisive in recent clashes between these two sides.

The Sharks were heavily favoured in the Currie Cup final in Durban late last year, but their line-out went walkabout as they were well beaten in Durban. The first round of Super Rugby early in March saw the Sharks win 12-6 at King’s Park and it was the quality of their line-out which set the mood for the game.

The physicality of the Sharks’ pack has been blunted by injury and they have perhaps missed a trick by not temporarily fielding Pieter-Steph du Toit at blindside flank with line-out jumper Anton Bresler at lock.

But Plumtree is obviously reluctant to break Du Toit’s run of excellent form by making a positional switch and it is number eight Ryan Kankowski who will play off the side of the scrum this evening.

The Sharks have welcomed back powerful flank Jean Deysel from injury and he is among the replacements.

“Against the Stormers you need that physicality and he’ll come off the bench and provide that,” said Plumtree.

There will be attention on the (relatively) old and new behind the Sharks’ scrum with Springbok fullback, the struggling Frans Steyn, chasing elusive form and the 19-year-old Sean Robinson making his Super Rugby debut on the wing.

Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said his team will stay with a more attacking approach to complement their excellent defensive pattern.

“We are not going to change everything just because of one or two defeats. We were very close [in losing to the Cheetahs], and it’s not as if we’re playing bad rugby. We are just making crucial errors and we let it slip last week.”

The Sharks are hoping that if push comes to shove their battle-hardened bench of Super Rugby players will carry them through the final quarter of a tight game. The Stormers, in turn, see the 19-year-old Cheslin Kolbe, a Sevens Springbok, as a potential match-winner.

Backline coach Robbie Fleck said the slightly-built Kolbe (1,70m and 80kg) “could do something special” off the bench.

“He always wants the ball in his hands and has tremendous pace and a solid step.”

Plumtree, who watched the Sharks mix bad with good in beating the Crusaders last Friday, believes that the team maintaining their commitment will ultimately triumph.

“These big derby games are about playing consistently at a high intensity for the 80 minutes.”

The Stormers, a frantic team in front of desperate home support, should hold the slightest of edges this evening … if only because they know that the price of failure at Newlands is so high.


Stormers: 15. Joe Pietersen, 14. Damian de Allende, 13. Juan de Jongh, 12. Jean de Villiers (captain), 11. Gio Aplon, 10. Gary van Aswegen, 9. Dewaldt Duvenage, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Michael Rhodes, 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.

Gerbrandt Grobler, 19. Nizaam Carr, 20. Louis Schreuder, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Cheslin Kolbe

Sharks:15. Francois Steyn, 14. Sean Robinson, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Ryan Kankowski,

6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Riaan Viljoen,

22. Odwa Ndungane.

Referee: Craig Joubert (RSA). Kick-off: 5.05 pm.

Today’s fixtures (home teams first, SA times): Chiefs v Reds (6:35 am); Blues v Hurricanes (9:35 am); Rebels v Kings (11:40 am); Force v Crusaders (1:45 pm); Stormers v Sharks (5:05 pm); Bulls v Cheetahs (7:10 pm). Bye: Waratahs.

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