Fresh Sharks ready

2012-05-26 00:00

THE Sharks are looking to their new-look attack to unlock the stingy Stormers’ defence in tonight’s Super Rugby crunch derby match at King’s Park.

The Stormers, playing the percentages and defending superbly, have kept rigidly to their successful style in winning 10 of their 11 games this season and they are sitting pretty at the top of the South African conference standings. They have earned just one bonus point all season and scored only 19 tries in 11 games, while the Sharks, with nine bonus points, have run in 33 tries.

But the Stormers have leaked just 12 tries while the Sharks have conceded twice as many. The Sharks also failed to score against the Stormers in losing their last three Super Rugby outings, but coach John Plumtree is looking to fresh faces and a change in emphasis to turn that around tonight.

The Sharks do have the attacking capabilities with two playmakers in fullback Pat Lambie and flyhalf Freddie Michalak, the smooth distributing of Meyer Bosman in midfield and the pace of young Paul Jordaan, Lwazi Mvovo and JP Pietersen in the outside channels to stretch the Stormers’ defence. Initially they will look to their big ball-runners Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis to create momentum and allow their backs to play on the frontfoot.

The Stormers, while struggling to score tries, have become experts in closing down attack-minded opponents and then turning territory into points — and victory — with the boot.

Their inability to score tries is curious as most of their international talent is crowded into their backline where they have five Springboks (Gio Aplon, Bryan Habana, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers and Peter Grant) while only two of their forwards (massive locks Andries Bekker and Eben Etzebeth) feature in the latest Springbok planning group of 42.

The Stormers are looking to these two big lineout jumpers to provide them with an edge in the lineouts, while young loosehead Steven Kitshoff gave Jannie du Plessis all sorts of bother at Newlands in the first-round game. Recent games between these two sides have been fought and won on the gainline and the collisions will again be brutal with referee Jaco Peyper’s blowing of the breakdown playing an important part. “We were a bit lucky to beat the Sharks [15-12] in the first round at Newlands,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee yesterday.

“No tries were scored and we won by a late penalty from Peter Grant. They have great ball carriers, an all-Bok frontrow and Boks in their backrow. We’re under no illusions about how difficult it will be. But we have prepared well and we are looking forward to the match.”

Plumtree said that the Stormers had taken flak for not scoring tries but he said all that would matter to them was that they were winning. But he said it would not be the Sharks’ style to grind out a win. “We need to attack them with confidence but playing in the right areas of the field is really important against them. Trying to score long-range tries against the Stormers is difficult because of their excellent scramble defence. We have to be utterly efficient because we won’t get many chances to score against them.”

Plumtree said that the Sharks would have to vary their attack and this was obviously behind his selection of the creative Michalak at flyhalf and Lambie at fullback.

“You either go around their defence, through it or over it. There is no one way to skin this particular cat — you have to play with a lot of variation,” the Sharks coach said.

The Bulls’  (48 points) loss to the Chiefs yesterday has helped the Sharks (41) back into the South African conference race and they will be back in striking distance if they beat the Stormers (49) tonight. (The Bulls host the Stormers at Loftus next weekend but play the Sharks in Durban early in July). The Cape Town critics are convinced the Stormers’ resilient defence and their lineout will prevail over the Sharks. But they could be surpri-sed. The Sha-rks are at home in a must-win situation. They also appear fresher and they finally have the bit between their teeth. But it will be hard, bruising and desperately close.

TEAMS

Sharks — 15. Pat Lambie, 14. JP

Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Meyer

Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Freddie Michalak, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (c), 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Anton Bresler, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19. Ryan Kankowski, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Odwa Ndungane, 22. Louis Ludik.

Stormers – 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (c), 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Jebb Sinclair, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Brok Harris, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.

Replacements: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Don Armand, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Burton Francis.

Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa).

Kick-off: 7.10 pm.

Today’s fixtures (home team first, SA times)

7.30 am Hurricanes vs Rebels; 9.35 am Blues vs Highlanders; 11.40 am Brumbies vs Reds; 1.40 pm Force vs Lions; 5.05 pm Cheetahs vs Waratahs; 7.10 pm Sharks vs Stormers.

Bye: Crusaders

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