Sharks must halt Chiefs’ run

2012-04-16 07:52

Cape Town – The rather yo-yoing Sharks have a dual responsibility in their influential Super Rugby meeting with new overall log-leaders the Chiefs at Mr Price Kings Park on Saturday.

Not only will victory mean an awful lot in their quest to qualify for the playoffs again this year, but their halting the charge of the currently rampant Waikato franchise is also important for the respective aspirations of better-placed compatriots the Stormers and Bulls to secure top spot on the broader table and thus the likelihood of a home final.

Put it this way: if the Chiefs win again in Durban, it would be their seventh on the trot, something no other team has achieved yet this season, and signal the end of a hugely successful three-match tour abroad for them.

Since getting on the “road”, they have beaten the Force in Perth, and also now the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein with a bonus point.

A rare overseas treble, completed if they subdue the Sharks, would leave them in a great position to challenge for the home showpiece – apart from a trip to Brisbane to play defending champions the Reds, all of their remaining fixtures are in New Zealand.

Included in that bag are several tough NZ conference derbies, it must be said, although their remaining dates against South African opposition will be home ones against the ailing Lions (Pukekohe, May 5) and Bulls (Hamilton, May 25).

Their confidence will be high after a slick, entertaining triumph over a spirited Cheetahs side who threatened to snatch the game themselves at times, despite the huge pre-game blow of losing inspirational captain and hooker Adriaan Strauss to flu.

South Africans were also able to see for themselves that the Chiefs of 2012 are not only all about devilish Sonny Bill Williams off-loads: there is class and flair aplenty around him in the backline, and the pack – once certainly not among the best in Super Rugby – is muscular and competitive.

As things stand the Chiefs, on 31, lead the overall standings by two points from both the Stormers and Bulls, locked together on 29 points although separated by the stipulation that the best-placed Australian side – the Brumbies – has to feature in the top three.

Jake White’s slightly surprise packages only boast 24 points, however, so they are to all intents and purposes sixth in the pecking order.

They will also hardly be billed favourites for their next match against the Bulls at Loftus this weekend.

Meanwhile the Stormers are unlikely to be hitting any panic buttons after their first defeat of the season to the Crusaders in Christchurch, and remain highly respected by many neutral judges despite the 31-24 setback.

But they will also slip to fairly shaky territory all of a sudden if they go down to the Reds on Friday, a team coming off the refreshment of a bye – and that will be especially so if the Chiefs conquer the Sharks to ominously extend their lead over the ambitions Capetonians.

John Plumtree’s side completed a decent enough overseas leg by beating the crisis-torn Blues, but could be vulnerable this Saturday because they are still a week away from a much-needed first bye and probably both mentally and physically tired after the four-game Antipodean venture.

So the coach will have to rally his troops for one last heroic effort against the Chiefs ahead of the battery-recharging break.

It was these opponents last season who snapped a four-game winning streak by the Sharks at the outset of the campaign, beating them 15-9 in Hamilton.

If the Sharks manage to turn the tables for that loss, they will have brought to a halt an even more protracted run of victories by the Chiefs this year ... and be doing several sides in the competition a big favour in the process.

This week’s fixtures (home teams first):

Friday: Highlanders v Blues (09:35 SA time), Reds v Stormers (11:40). Saturday: Hurricanes v Crusaders (09:35), Waratahs v Rebels (11:40), Sharks v Chiefs (17:05), Bulls v Brumbies (19:10). Byes: Cheetahs, Force, Lions.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing

  • Ren%c3%a9 - 2012-04-16 08:11

    C'mon Sharks, you have a job to do this weekend!!!

      Sean - 2012-04-16 10:25

      It is doable ! Go Sharkssssssssss !!

  • Lionel - 2012-04-16 08:12

    Im not a SBW fan but jees his offloads in the tackle are simply awesome!!Good luck Sharkies bring them back to earth!!!

      Sean - 2012-04-16 10:28

      He reminds me of Skinstad when it comes to the offloads. SBW could be upside down and he`ll still give a good offload :)

  • Ken - 2012-04-16 08:12

    I really wish the Sharks well this weekend. The Bulls need the Sharks to win. Go Sharks

  • David - 2012-04-16 08:43

    The Chiefs have a good record in Durban. At least our Blues game was early so we have extra time to recover. Going to be a tough game to predict. Go Sharks!!

  • Johan - 2012-04-16 08:49

    Imagine a Super 15 final between the Stormers and Bulls... The look on the faces of the Ozzies and NZ guys will be priceless.

      Christopher - 2012-04-16 09:03

      The Sharks need to be in that final!

      Dave - 2012-04-16 09:15

      Imagine if pigs flew

      Sean - 2012-04-16 10:26

      @Dave - I think pigs could rather fly than Stormers winning it !!

      Riaan - 2012-04-16 10:46

      Jy bedoel seker Sharks en Bulls!!!!!

      Rich - 2012-04-16 12:01

      Imagine if the Stormers won the comp seven years in a row - they would have the same number of championships as The Crusaders,

      Den%c3%a9se - 2012-04-16 20:28

      You mean 2 ACTUALLY Blue Raven. 2007 is only on paper - not the actual game!!!!!!!!!

      LeonTheShark - 2012-04-17 13:54

      Yea 2007 a disgrace I mean even steve walsh said he messed up

  • johan.d.theron - 2012-04-16 09:23

    Just a thought..\r\n\r\nHas anyone noticed that the \yo-yoing Sharks\ is the only team that have played 6 of their 8 away games with only 2 in Durban? 4 of these away games was in Australasia. \r\n\r\nTo be middle of the log with that start is not too bad. True, the travels will hurt them on Saturday, but I think their season is not completely derailed.

      Chris - 2012-04-16 09:29

      Took the words right out of my mouth. Sharks also have some good players returning from injury, it would be crazy to write this team off.

      Lionel - 2012-04-16 10:03

      Only a fool will write the Sharks off!!

  • Willem - 2012-04-16 09:41

    Go Sharks!!!

  • Justin - 2012-04-16 09:49

    We must play Bosman at inside centre, Whitehead at outside with JP back on the wing. JP isn't up to scratch on his defense in midfield, and Bosman is really starting to blossom. That man SBW must be contained! Go sharks, one more win before your bye! I also hope Bismark is back, coz we'll battle to hold onto our ball and steal theirs at ruck time - Brussouw did everything, and the Cheetahs still lost it. I think Botes should start again at openside, and keep Deysel at blinside with Alberts as an impact off the bench.

      David - 2012-04-16 10:21

      Agree about Botes. He works so hard for the Sharks and does so many things right. Always tackling, always in the right place which is why he often scores. An unsung hero of the Shark pack. I'm beginning to agree that JP belongs on the wing. Doesn't mean he can't come in on attack, but defensively, he's been found wanting at times. Whitehead has been excellent and like you say, Bosman is finally beginning to come right. If the right selections are made, we can win. Go Sharks!!!

  • John - 2012-04-16 10:13

    Cant see it. Sharks backs are just not good enough to keep out the Chiefs backs. The Sharks pack will need to have a massive game to starve them of ball. The Sharks pack are coming into form which is frustrating because the backs are leaking tries like a sive and Plum does not believe in a defense coach.

  • Riaan - 2012-04-16 10:54

    6 van ons 8 wedstryde is op Durban oor en ons speel die lions en cheethas weg wat nie baie moeilik is so die kanse baie goed ons gaan 1ste eindig van die SA spanne!!!

      Riaan - 2012-04-16 16:56

      Wel soos hul se is daar nie maklike wedstryde maar ek sal eerder die cheethas en lions speel weg wat onder le as wat ek die chiefs en brumbies wat bo le wegspeel, so ja dis hukom ek see dit gaan nie so moeilik wees en nie gese dit gan maklik wees! Jek glo di Sharks sal wen saterdag want darm hul n ekstra rusdag ingekry en terug te vlieg van SA beter as om daan toe te vlieg en hul volgende naweek af so hul kan 110 persent gee!

  • LeonTheShark - 2012-04-16 15:26

    The sharks will win the s15 this year.

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