Why Sharks must win their 'dorpie' date!
Cape Town - At least one win from their two remaining tour dates as they switch to Australian soil: that must be the earnest target now of the Sharks, who leave New Zealand with a decent enough 50 percent record despite Saturday's first loss of the Super Rugby campaign to the Hurricanes.
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These days the Aussie leg of any South African team's safari across the Indian Ocean is always likelier to be the easier-looking one on paper; it's primarily a question of staving off complacency to ensure healthy victory chances there.
The Sharks tackle the Rebels and Reds, in that order, before the long haul back, and the more optimistic of SA observers might still feel they have a puncher's chance of winning both.
But even one would represent a rosy return ... and I believe this Saturday's (05:45 our time) is the one to really target in that regard.
Given how their set-piece (both scrum and lineout) struggled against a 'Canes outfit less than renowned on those fronts, my fear for the Reds date in Brisbane is that scrum time could prove influentially problematic for Sean Everitt's charges.
For all their shortcomings elsewhere, the Reds do boast a solid reputation in that department; you'd expect nothing less on the watch of their gnarly former All Black second-rower head coach Brad Thorn.
It will also be the often problematic "game four" on tour, by then, for a South African team where that old one-foot-on-the-plane syndrome is, almost inevitably, a rising threat.
No, the Sharks must throw the kitchen sink more immediately at an unpredictable Rebels side who began 2020 very inauspiciously with a nine-point reverse to the Sunwolves and 13-point derby loss to the Brumbies before beating the Waratahs convincingly in their first Melbourne fixture of the season on Friday.
On the topic of venues, their Cape Town-born coach Dave Wessels may just be quietly peeved by the fact that the Rebels now host the Sharks at the relative "platteland" venue (for the first time at this level) of Ballarat, rather than more traditional AAMI Park in the infinitely bigger metropolis some 100km away.
It could be a leveller, to some degree?
Battered by injuries or other unavailability issues the Sharks currently may be, but I'd recommend a major push, nevertheless, this weekend ...
*Rob Houwing is Sport24's chief writer. Follow him on Twitter: @RobHouwing
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