Super Rugby Match Preview
Saturday 14th July
Sharks vs Jaguares
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17h15local time, 15h15 GMT, 17h15 SA Time
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds, Archie Sehlako
TMO: Willie Vos
As a warm-up exercise to writing this preview, I have spent the last 15 minutes watching the pendulum on a grandfather clock. It swings left, and right, left, and right, left, and right with utterly monotonous regularity. Left, right, left, right, left, right, with absolute never-ending consistency.
Much like the Sharks and their strange consistent inconsistency. Win, lose, win, lose, win, lose……..
Based purely on their incredible record for maintaining this pendulic consistency, the Sharks will beat the Jaguares on Saturday. (I hope there is a word like “pendulic” – if there isn’t one perhaps I have just invented it and earned my place in the History of the English Language?)
This game is a must win for the Sharks if they do not want their Super Rugby season to end with the final whistle of this game. They cannot overhaul the Jaguares nor the Lions on the log, but a 5-point win on Saturday leaves the door open for a play-off chance.
Of course, they also have to hope, pray even, that the Rebels lose at the Highlanders in Dunedin.
There is also a chance that the Sharks could still progress if the Rebels take just one bonus-point from the game as the Sharks might have a better points differential.
However, this is all moot, if the Sharks lose to the Jaguares.
Then their season is over.
The Jaguares have already booked their place in the playoffs thanks to a superb run that finally ended last weekend in Pretoria.
Much like last week, but with an added hint of desperation, the ball is entirely in the Sharks’ court.
Sharks coach Robert du Preez has largely stuck with last week’s side in naming his team for Saturday.
As expected, Beast Mtawarira returns in place of Juan Schoeman after having his workload reduced last week, while Kobus van Wyk replaces the injured Sbu Nkosi on the wing.
The good news is that Daniel du Preez has been cleared to play and takes his place at number eight.
Meanwhile, the Jaguares have made wholesale changes to their starting line-up for their final regular-season game of the campaign.
With a play-off spot already secured, head coach Mario Ledesma has rung the changes in order to rest his first-team ahead of next weekend.
Up front there is a new front-row as Javier Diaz, Santiago Medrano and Julian Montoya come in while second-row Tomas Lavanini, flank Marcos Kremer and number eight Juan Manuel Leguizamón are the other new faces in the pack.
The backline is also freshened up as Martin Landajo and Joaquín Díaz Bonilla are the half-backs, Bautista Ezcurra comes in at 12 while Sebastian Cancelliere is on the left wing, with Ramiro Moyano moving to full-back
If the Sharks really want to win this one, they are going to have to focus on doing some things right. They will need their big forwards to carry the ball with patience and power. They will need their inside backs to function with precision. They will need their support runners to run off the shoulder of the ball carriers. They will need their wide runners to run with pace and aggression.
They must make all their tackles. All of them!
They need to do all the things they did not do against the Stormers just a week ago.
The Jaguares ran themselves to a standstill in the thin air of Loftus Versveld. On Saturday, Durban is expecting some rain, and the air will be heavy with oxygen and moisture. Much more to the liking of the visitors. They are unlikely to run out of puff in the last 20 minutes of this game.
Of course, they are resting their first team, which does open the door for the Sharks, just a bit.
The Sharks have Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira back in the starting team and he will look to take on Santiago Medrano in the all-new Jaguares front row. The Sharks need the stability he brings to the scrums as their set-pieces have creaked and groaned on occasion in recent weeks.
For the rest, the two teams look pretty even in most departments.
Based on my pendulic predictor, it must be the Sharks.
Based on logic, the Sharks are fielding close to their best side, and the Jaguares are not. So it also has to be the Sharks.
I am giving it to the Sharks by 7 points.
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha (c), 4 Tyler Paul, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Wian Vosloo, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Makazole Mapimpi
Jaguares: 15 Ramiro Moyano, 14 Bautista Delguy, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Bautista Ezcurra, 11 Sebastian Cancelliere, 10 Joaquín Díaz Bonilla, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Juan Manuel Leguizamón, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera (c), 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Santiago Medrano, 2 Julian Montoya, 1 Javier Diaz
Replacements: 16 Agustin Creevy, 17 Santiago Garcia Botta, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Emiliano Boffelli