Super Rugby Match Preview
Saturday 3rd March 2018
Sharks vs Waratahs
Venue: Kings Park Stadium, Durban
Kickoff: 15h05 Local Time, 13h05 GMT, 15h05 SA Time
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: AJ Jacobs (South Africa), Archie Sehlako (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)
The Sharks went down to the Lions while the Waratahs managed a win against the Stormers in their respective first round games in the 2018 competition.
Neither side will be entirely happy with their form in those first games, the Waratahs sneaking a win against a side that dominated many aspects of the game, but suffered from the finishing jitters and some very poor handling. The Sharks found themselves on the wrong end of a beating in the scrums, the area they had expected to dominate against the Lions.
Neither side impressed in the scrums, nor did they impress over the ball on the ground. These are areas that require significant improvement if either of the combatants in the Kings Park game want to be contenders at the end of the season.
Scrummaging woes aside, we need to consider other aspects of the two teams for this game. The Waratahs struggled through 2017 with all manner of internal issues, and a singular failure to gel as a team on the field of play. Last weekend gave no evidence of their gelling in 2018. They have the talent, and they have the ability, but just seem a little ragged.
The Sharks, in contrast, are a team with an established game plan, and the right kind of focus, they just seem to play the wrong style of rugby at times. They try and dominate the set-pieces and the midfield through a power pack of forwards. When it works, it is winning rugby. When it does not work, there is no evidence of a Plan B. And the game plan has not worked on a number of critical occasions.
And then there is one tiny little issue that the Sharks need to fix, quickly! They have a tendency to slip tackles, almost falling off the tackle in the moment of contact. The Sharks had the worst tackle success rate in the entire competition, perhaps the lowest we have seen from anyone in years at just 77%. Last week the Lions exploited this weakness, the Waratahs will be looking to do the same, especially using Israel Folau to run at the outside midfield.
The Sharks have four changes to their starting XV as the Beast Mtawarira is recalled into the front row, Louis Schreuder starts at 9, Tyler Paul replaces the injured Philip van der Walt, and Makazole Mapimpi is rested, with Kobus van Wyk starting in his place on the wing.
The Waratahs have just two alterations to their starting line up.
With Rob Simmons out, Ned Hanigan moves into the second-row to partner Tom Staniforth. Michael Wells shifts from number eight to the blindside, with Jed Holloway to start at the back of the scrum.
The Sharks will have spent their bye week focussing on improving their scrummaging. This has been the centrepiece of their game plan for the last couple of years and they simply have to improve if they want success in 2018.
They have one of South Africa’s better flyhalves in Rob du Preez, and he will make sure that the Sharks take the attack to the Waratahs through quick flat ball. He also has an educated tactical boot and will keep the ‘Tahs guessing throughout. There are some very good runners outside him, though none seem to have that magic flair that can break a game open. Perhaps the introduction of Curwin Bosch as an impact player later in the game might remedy this?
The Waratahs have a backline loaded with potential, with the focus on Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Bernard Foley not always recognising the potential of the likes of Kellaway, Rona, and Foketi. For all that potential, we have not seen this backline functioning as a well-oiled machine. Someday it might just gel…..
But this game will be decided up front, and the Sharks will be looking to establish early domination in the set pieces and then build from there. I am not sure that the Waratahs can match the Sharks in the set-piece battle.
Home ground advantage rests with the Sharks. Their scrum will have improved immeasurably, especially with the introduction of Tendai Mtawarira in the starting XV. This will be a different Sharks outfit.
I simply cannot see the Waratahs improving much over last week’s scramble, and they are never good tourists.
The Sharks will win, by a healthy 15 points.
Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Sbu Nkosi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (c), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Tera Mtembu, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Curwin Bosch
Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Andrew Kellaway, 13 Lalakai Foketi, 12 Kurtley Beale, 11 Curtis Rona, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Michael Wells, 5 Tom Staniforth, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Paddy Ryan, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Kalivati Tawake, 19 Nick Palmer, 20 Will Miller, 21 Mitch Short, 22 Bryce Hegarty, 23 Alex Newsome