Sharks anticipate stronger Highlanders scrum
Gavin Rich - SuperSport.com
Durban - The Sharks probably didn’t know which way to lean if they were paying attention to the Loftus match on their bye Saturday last weekend.
In one sense they would have course been rooting for a Highlanders win as the Bulls are rivals in a South African conference which could just start to become a whole lot more interesting during the coming weeks. But they would also have known something else – the trend when a touring team wins their opening fixture is for them to relax a week later and be potentially vulnerable.
A great example was their excellent win over the Hurricanes during the 2016 season. The Hurricanes put more than 50 points past the Lions in Johannesburg and would have arrived in Durban in a confident mood, particularly as the Sharks weren’t doing particularly well and were just back from tour. Maybe they were too confident, for they ended up losing comprehensively to a motivated Sharks outfit.
The Sharks won’t lack any motivation for Saturday’s Kings Park showdown with the Highlanders and having beaten the Blues and come tantalisingly close to upsetting the Hurricanes in Wellington in their only two matches against New Zealand opposition, they will fancy their chances of doing what the Bulls couldn’t do.
They recovered from the disappointment of being outplayed by the Bulls in Durban three weeks ago by turning in a strong performance against the Stormers, and one aspect of their game they don’t appear to be too concerned about any more is their scrum. With Thomas du Toit now having had nine games to adjust to his new position on the tighthead side, he is finding his feet and was man of the match against the potent Cape scrumming unit.
Whereas they started the season still carrying the hangover of the Currie Cup final and were outscrummed by the Lions at Emirates Airlines Park, the Sharks are now looking to use their scrum as a weapon. And so they should against a Highlanders team that had to absorb much pressure from the Bulls eight at Loftus.
However, Sharks prop Juan Schoeman does not believe that the Highlanders’ torrid evening in the scrums against the Bulls is necessarily a good thing for the Sharks.
“This Super Rugby season has been strange in that one week a team will be well beaten (in the scrums) and then the next week they will turn it around,” said Schoeman, who has played quite a lot this season because of the injuries to Beast Mtawarira.
“I think the Highlanders will be working hard on their scrums and it will be a different picture in terms of what we will be facing this week.”
Against the Highlanders’ strong defensive system, a good start at possession source will be imperative for the hosts.
“Their defence is very good so we have to make sure that we give ourselves some time with the ball, to keep the ball. That will be vital.”
It will be, and a strong scrumming and lineout platform will be vital for ensuring that the Sharks put themselves in with a shout of knocking over a team that has only been beaten twice this season and which will have good reason in terms of how close the New Zealand conference log looks at the moment, not to fall victim to complacency.
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