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Team Points
Premier Division
Xerox Golden Lions 10 10 48
Vodacom Blue Bulls 10 8 39
DHL Western Province 10 7 35
Toyota Free State Cheetahs 10 3 24
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Super Rugby 2015: Round Nine

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 9 Apr 2015 at 11:44
Tagged with : , ,

This week the Sharks roadshow heads to Joburg, in search of some much-needed redemption.

Lions v Sharks (Saturday 17h05)

Like an ogre (or an onion), there are many layers to this contest. If we look at it from a form perspective alone, it’s rather easy to call, since the Lions have won their last three games and the Sharks took an almighty smack the last time they took the field. There’s very little doubt in anyone’s mind that if each team simply dishes up a rehash of what hte produced last week, the Lions will win this encounter by a cricket score.

A week is a long time in rugby, though and from a Sharks perspective, it’s probably safe to say that nobody really knows what to expect at Ellis Park. Anyone looking at the team and its proud history will battle to believe they could be as abjectly poor two weeks running; countering that argument is a distinctly “weakened” feeling to the team selected this week, as the big names continue to drop like flies. Countering it again (if a counter-counter is really a thing) is the prevailing opinion that since the “big names on paper” have been the ones letting the team down the most, perhaps a younger, hungrier outfit with a little more to prove might do better?

We can also go back to the round two clash between these sides, when the Sharks (admittedly rather stronger that day) comfortably dispatched the Lions, with a simple game based on total up-front dominance and set piece supremacy leading to a bonus point victory in the wet. The Lions have improved markedly since that day (and the Sharks the opposite) but you have to feel that the same blueprint, if well executed, could deliver a similar result for the visitors.

There are a few key things that need to change and the challenge, of course, will be whether the Sharks can get all of them right at once. Firstly, against a team that likes to run the ball and attack from virtually any situation, the Sharks simply have to improve their first-time tackle success. Defence, once a proud hallmark of the team, has been getting steadily worse each week and if the players don’t shore up in that department this week, they will get hammered. Secondly, the Sharks simply have to find a way to get their lineout functioning. All the blame for the past weeks’ woes have been laid squarely on Kyle Cooper, it would seem and there’s going to be huge pressure on debutant Franco Marais to perform in this key area. Thirdly, if a kicking game is going to be employed, then the execution needs to be 1000% better than it was over the last few weeks and here Fred Zeilinga and new fullback Odwa Ndungane have big questions to answer.

With my hand on my heart, I don’t feel the Sharks will have had enough time in this very difficult week to put all of these pieces in place. I’m hoping to see a far more committed effort and marked improvement in the areas mentioned, but I’m not expecting it will be enough to secure victory. The Lions will prevail, hopefully not by much more than around 6 points.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Ruan Combrinck, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Mark Richards, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Warwick Tecklenburg, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Robbie Coetzee, 1 Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16 Armand van der Merwe, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Robert Kruger, 20 Derick Minnie, 21 Lohan Jacobs, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Sharks: 15 Odwa Ndungane, 14 Sibusiso Sithole, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Renaldo Bothma, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Marco Wentzel (captain), 4 Mouritz Botha, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Matt Stevens, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Willem Alberts, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Lionel Cronje, 23 Jack Wilson.

In other games, I anticipate results similar to these:
Brumbies to beat the Blues by 8
Crusaders to prevail over the Highlanders by 5
Waratahs over Stormers by 12
Force to beat the Cheetahs by 4
Bulls to beat the Reds by 10.


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