Sharks likely to hunt tries

2012-07-26 12:54

Cape Town – Expect the Sharks on Saturday to seek to buck the trend of tries not necessarily being an essential route to success in high-stakes knockout rugby.

One of the more up-tempo sides in Super Rugby, and with recent form only underlining that, they are unlikely to want the semi-final against the Stormers at sold-out Newlands to be too conservative and relatively low-scoring -- because that plays into the hands of a pragmatic home team who are masters of the grind-it-out triumph.

The Sharks so nearly prevailed the last time these teams met at the same venue, early in the ordinary-season programme, when an uncompromising, often uninspiring and try-less contest was snatched 15-12 by the Stormers through Peter Grant’s late success with a tricky penalty goal.

Yet the fact remained that the visitors still came off second best on the scoreboard, despite arguably shading the contest and with a more lightweight tight five then, which had featured starts for both second-choice props Dale Chadwick and Wiehahn Herbst.

It was a classic example of the Stormers’ uncanny ability – later demonstrated in many more matches -- to soak up pressure through their hugely adhesive defensive system and just manage to post enough points themselves (with Grant’s accuracy off the tee a vital tool) to win.

As was reminded at their midweek media briefing, the Stormers have basically been playing “finals rugby” all season, like it or not, and it has got them this far ... as overall log-toppers and with rights to a possible home showpiece next weekend.

With bigger guns like Willem Alberts, Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira back in their plans this time at Newlands, the Sharks will aim to dominate the scrums and also command more consistently good field position by way of bulldozing leg-drive at close quarters in open play.

But a big hallmark of their zest in recent weeks has been the combination of this “grunt” with purposeful and incisive backline venom: unlike the Stormers, the Sharks have been winning games aided in a great way by volume of tries in their favour.

It is unlikely that they will consciously abandon that template now -- even given that this is a stage of the competition where winning is all that matters, whether it is by 9-3 or 30-26.

There is every likelihood that the visitors will target a fast and furious start, given the very real threat that as the second half progresses, residual long-haul travel fatigue may come into play for them and coach John Plumtree will be particularly alert to the need to provide infusion off his bench.

If the Sharks, in a suitably rip-roaring first 20-30 minutes or so from them, are able to cross the chalk once or twice without reply, they would simultaneously force the Stormers into near-virgin territory in 2012: chasing the game and thus being forced to loosen a bit of their hitherto admirable “structure” in the process.

I would argue that a 6-6 sort of scenario, or thereabouts, at half-time would potentially be ominous for the Sharks, which is why a couple of five- or seven-pointers relatively early in the contest may be their most promising route to inflicting a first home loss on the Stormers this year.

It is not as though such a philosophy will not bring with it certain perils ... the Sharks producing a charm offensive straight out of the blocks may also play into home hands; men like Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers are renowned for their devilish eye for the intercept or at the very least an ability to transfer play by 40 or 50 metres from a suitably stealthy turnover.

That said, the Sharks are likely to enter this clash -- while acknowledging the huge stakes and pressures -- with an unavoidably upbeat feeling about their offensive game, even in the unlikely event that they receive instructions leaning toward caution from their coaching staff.

The Sharks hit the 50-try mark for the campaign in their successful qualifier against the Reds in Brisbane last weekend, scoring three tries to two in the process.

Just a week earlier, the Stormers (28 tries from their ordinary-season campaign, the lowest of any team) were, by contrast, outscored 3-2 in tries by the notably weaker Melbourne Rebels, and not even in Australia.

Yes, I believe Keegan Daniel and company will genuinely “have a go” – especially with fair weather quite firmly in the offing -- at what is usually the stingiest defence in Super Rugby.

Rob Houwing’s forecast:

This match is dreadfully hazardous to call! For all-round quality to their recent play and boasting of such indisputably world-class names as Mtawarira, Du Plessis (times two), Alberts, Coetzee, Pietersen and Michalak in their ranks, the Sharks have a puncher’s chance at Newlands, and then some.

But at the same time, how can you simply pooh-pooh the Stormers’ bloody-minded resilience and composure, not to mention their 100 percent home record this year?

Had they not been returning from Queensland, I might have leaned slightly the Sharks’ way.

On the grounds of likelier, superior freshness over 80 minutes and that remarkable aversion to defeat, my inclination is instead to favour the Stormers ... by a margin of no more than two or three points. 

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • cape.maori - 2012-07-26 12:56

    First! LOL

      david.s.duncan.1 - 2012-07-26 13:40

      Retardis must be a broken man now, you've taken his only joy in life

      tom.tardis - 2012-07-26 15:04

      :( my suicide will be broadcast on facebook live at 5pm CAT

      cape.maori - 2012-07-26 15:23

      Sorry Tom - was nice knowing you! Trust you will give the guys on the other side some hell (in hell, of course!)

  • wesley.j.lane - 2012-07-26 13:14

    2nd GO SHARKS!

      blou.johnny - 2012-07-26 13:54

      ...easy game for the Sharks.. ....Stormertjies will choke, again..... ... Go Sharks...!

      ChrisinOz294 - 2012-07-26 23:41

      @blackanblue.johnny. Typical Blue Bull comment. It was an easy game for the Bulls in Christchurch as well, ne? Your team is out, finish, kapot, oor en uit, klaar. Now you just make arrogant, idiotic comments just to see the Stormers loose. Nothing going for you now anymore. Pathetic.

  • nikolai.kaufmann - 2012-07-26 13:15

    All I can say is that I’m going to have fun on Saturday, regardless of the score, I know we (The Sharks) are up against it, I would just like to see a game that the Ref doesn’t f@ ck up and this goes for both teams. Let the loser lose because they were beat, not because they we’re playing against Player 23. Steve Walsh caught on k@ k in our Round 2 game, and I don’t want to see that k@ k again. FFS I am gat vol of watching games that are won and lost by the poe pol in the middle. I honestly don’t know what to think. Sharks camp looks completely at ease and rested, even flying into Cape Town earlier. Stormers camp, is well rested too and also amped for the game. So I honestly have no idea who’s going to prevail. I have read every Rugby blog and as much as everyone wants to make predictions, we all know, the team that wins, is the team that shows up and is blessed with the kiss from lady luck. The bounce of the ball I say.

      mthunzi.phakathi - 2012-07-26 22:12

      Earlier i stated that games are not won on paper, rather on the field. Mental nd physical ability at the time nd lady luck. I recall getting a number of thumb dwns...but yeh mate i wud lv to c a game where the ref doesnt mke shockng calls, alas not likely

  • danny.cohen.315 - 2012-07-26 13:21

    Rob Houwing, you will be proven wrong I'm afraid........LOL

      MarkSchrade1980 - 2012-07-26 14:52

      He's been proven wrong on a few occasions this season

  • chester.tobias.3 - 2012-07-26 13:33

    This going to be the derby of the year! Go Stormers !

  • vernon.annandale.7 - 2012-07-26 13:36

    Win or loose,the SHARKS are already champs to me,the most awesome and entertaning team SA has! Good luck to both teams you both deserve to be here and may the best team win!!!!!

      hans.himmler.7 - 2012-07-26 13:41

      Agreed. Good luck to the Stormers, may the best team win. BLACK . WHITE . DYNAMITE

      tom.tardis - 2012-07-26 15:06

      yeh winning and loosing not antonyms. actually loosing is not even a word

  • jako.merwe - 2012-07-26 13:44

    Upset of the year coming up in terms of the score. Sharks by 15 to 20. The stormers just don't have the players

      johan.u.bergh - 2012-07-26 14:00

      @Jako Domste stelling van die jaar eerder!! Met verwysing na die twak wat jy hier kwytraak! Dit gaan n close game wees wie ook al wen! Wat is jou definisie van n speler terwyl die stormers nie enige spelers het nie? Stormer groete

      jako.merwe - 2012-07-26 14:04

      @bergh. Kom ons wag maar en kyk of dit so n dom stelling is. Julle het nie die spelers om terug te veg as julle dalk 10 agter is nie. Shark groete

      jako.merwe - 2012-07-26 14:13

      @bergh. Ek is bereid om n bottel van jou gunsteling op die spel te sit. Maar ek soek 2 as die sharks wen met 15

      tom.tardis - 2012-07-26 15:17

      im with jako on this. sharks on the +4.5 handicap - half the bankroll

      WernerZA - 2012-07-26 18:03

      Née man, stormers het vir Grant!! Die beste flyhalf in SA... Haha, of dit is wat hulle sal Se... Stormers to choke by 7 points!

      ChrisinOz294 - 2012-07-26 23:45

      @jako.merwe. I believe you have not yet answered Johan's question. Who then in your opinion are players? Those things that you believe the Sharks have and not the Stormers. The Stormers only lost two games in the toughest provincial tournament in the world. And the biggest losing margin was 7. So tell me, how did they achieve this without any "players"?

      theunis.botha.96 - 2012-07-28 01:35

      Lekker Sharks.Maak die Stormers,maak die Chiefs almal Shark ball carriers.

  • dave.short.102 - 2012-07-26 14:20

    Sharks by 6!

      cape.maori - 2012-07-26 14:43

      And the bulls?

      Denése - 2012-07-26 15:13

      Sharks by 7 - a converted try rather than 2 penalties!

      tom.tardis - 2012-07-26 15:17

      relevance ?

      tom.tardis - 2012-07-26 15:23

      nice thinking denese - i will excuse the fact ur parents mispelt your name

      jacques.duplessis.566148 - 2012-07-26 15:45

      Die Sharks gaan hard aarde toe kom die naweek. Hulle begin al klaar lekker windgat raak. Lekker val Sharkies. Go Stormers.

      dave.short.102 - 2012-07-26 18:19

      Cape.maori. Die Bulls is uit jou twat

      ChrisinOz294 - 2012-07-26 23:46

      Stormers by 6.

  • john.comyn.18 - 2012-07-26 15:56

    Two things Rob - "hunting for tries" is not a new concept in rugby. It is what the game is all about. Hell even the Stormers hunt for tries even if they don't score too many. 2nd thing is the Sharks did not "arguably shade the contest" last time at Newlands. Over the 80 minutes the Stormers were 10 to 15 points better and bungled numerous scoring opportunities. I actually think that game was where this "whiteline fever" they have developed started. The amount of scoring opportunities the Stormers botched this season is mind boggling. They have saved the best for last:-) GO STORMERS!

  • steveroodt - 2012-07-27 02:48

    Go Sharks .Just a thought what are the guys going to do with all those air miles after winning the S15

      ChrisinOz294 - 2012-07-27 05:34

      They can use it next weekend to take their wives and girlfriends on an island get-away or something. They won't have much else to do.

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