The Stormers travel up to a rainy Durban this Saturday to face the Sharks in the second meeting of the two sides in the Pro14 Rainbow Cup SA. In their first clash I predicted a win from the Sharks away from home, and while they managed to deliver I’m doubtful that they’ll be able to do the double at home this weekend. By Oliver Keohane.
I believe that the Sharks have one of the most talented, in-sync backlines in South African rugby, but I can’t look past how their pack got brutalised by the Bulls in their 43-9 loss at Loftus last weekend. Former Springbok coach and SuperSport analyst Nick Mallett described the Sharks tight five as having “put up the white flag” to a dominant Bulls pack, and went on to point out that when their tight five faltered their loose forwards faded away. “Ox (Nche) and (Thomas) du Toit held up but as soon as they went off the Sharks fell away” continued Mallett.
To add to the woes of a worrying performance from the pack is injury to star loosie Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who is out of action for a while following a ruptured patella tendon. The Sharks have looked to beef up their pack for the Stormers clash, but as Mallett said, some serious questions need to be asked of the Sharks’ replacements. The Stormers, who have one of the strongest packs among the South African sides, will be relishing a battle in the rain where they can look to choke the Sharks out and deny them any clean ball and backline momentum.
While the Sharks were victorious in Cape Town, it was by three points (33-30) and not without two red cards to the home team. I think that the Stormers, though they were unlucky to lose in the first game, were fiercely competitive against SA’s best when they took on the Bulls and lost 16-20 the following week, and exciting in their execution in their extra-time winner over the Lions at Ellis Park (39-37).
The sense I get is that the Stormers are gaining ascendency as a collective as the tournament goes on, and that they will follow up strongly from their win over the Lions. Dobson’s men include the Springbok starting front three, in Malherbe, Mbonambi and Kitshoff, the World Rugby Player of the Year from 2019 (Pieter-Steph Du Toit) as well as a lock pairing that has played for SA A (JD Shickerling) and the Springboks (Marvin Orie). That alone is enough to win them a strangulation contest in the Shark Tank.
The Stormers backs, I believe, will have to seriously underperform come Saturday for the visitors to lose. To win, it’ll be back to the basics of letting Frans Malherbe scrum all evening, making sure the pack secures the lineouts and hoping that Abner Van Reenen out-kicks Curwin Bosch. I’m predicting a 23-17 win to the Stormers.