Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - There is a certain irony to the Stormers probably being considered less likely to “play the rugby” in the Super Rugby derby against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.
That is because for all the talk of the host team scoring tries and acquiring bonus points in that fashion rather more prolifically this season, they have a slightly embarrassing recent record in the try column against these particular opponents.
The Sharks may hold the aces 33-19 over the Newlands-based team purely in terms of “tries for” after 13 weeks of this season, but this is their grand sum of tries against the Stormers, specifically, since the conference system began last year and three matches have already been contested between the coastal sides: zero.
So in 240 minutes of rugby following the big shake-up of the competition, they have been kept stubbornly at bay by the Stormers in the most lucrative form of scoring.
The Capetonians, by contrast, can at least say that they have breached the Sharks’ defence in that way five times in the three fixtures (all won by the Stormers).
It is largely down to their particularly thumping victory at Newlands last season in the second conference encounter, when they won 32-12 and got the four-try bonus point.
That was the day when the Sharks’ midfield defence, more than any other area, was cut to ribbons by a sprightly, slippery Jean de Villiers, then partnered by his old Springbok ally Jaque Fourie
, who is back in the No 12 jersey for the home side on Saturday and seems to have stiffened his tackling act subsequently, was especially culpable on that occasion.
The earlier meeting at Mr Price Kings Park had also seen the Sharks fail to notch a try in their own backyard - currently injured Stormers captain Schalk Burger
got the only one of the match then.
Neither side managed a try at Newlands earlier this campaign, when the Stormers eked out a barely deserved 15-12 result, courtesy of a late high-pressure penalty from Peter Grant
, who had only had one full training session with his side since returning from Japanese club commitments.
The Sharks’ last Super Rugby try against the Stormers came in 2010, when they beat them 20-14 in Durban toward the end of round-robin play and the try count was 2-2; the Stormers did go on to be losing finalists to the Bulls.
It is the sort of mini-drought that must niggle away at the Sharks, who have been fairly free-scoring in the try department against various sides recently and may well fancy a decent crack at smashing the dam wall on Saturday with some high-tempo rugby if conditions allow ...Teams:Sharks:
15 Patrick Lambie, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman
, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehan Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Ryan Kankowski, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Odwa Ndungane, 22 Louis Ludik
15 Gio Aplon, 14 Gerhard van den Heever, 13 Juan de Jongh, 12 Jean de Villiers (captain), 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
Substitutes: 16 Deon Fourie, 17 Frans Malherbe, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Don Armand, 20 Nick Fenton-Wells, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Burton Francis*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing