DURBAN – The Sharks and Lions do battle at Jonsson Kings Park this afternoon in a second-round Rainbow Cup SA match. Mike Greenaway looks at three factors that could influence the outcome.
Sharks coach Sean Everitt identified the breakdown as an area of concern in his team’s performance against the Stormers. The Sharks’ ball carriers were often isolated in the tackle and the Stormers won a number of turnovers.
Looking after the ball carrier has been a big focus at training this week and the Sharks will need to show improvement given how good the Lions have been at stealing balls at the breakdown.
Vincent Tshituka in particular has been making a menace of himself at the breakdowns and Everitt has said they will have to “look after” the young flank.
Both of these teams enjoy running the ball and the side that gets the edge at the breakdown will be best able to play their natural attacking game.
The Lions were contenders in their match against the Bulls until the last ten minutes when their possession dried up. When the Lions kept the ball, they were dangerous.
“Possession is going to be really important in this game given how both teams like to play,” Everitt said.
“They must not fire a shot at us, and in turn, we must be better at the breakdown. We want to play a free-flowing game. What we don’t want is a stop-start affair where we give them possession because we know they are a team that turns over ball — they, score the majority of their tries from turnovers.”
Similarly, the Sharks played some sublime rugby against the Stormers when they hung on to the ball through the phases. The Lions certainly don’t want the Sharks to build momentum given how many attacking threats they have.
The Bulls did not have it all their own way in the set pieces at Loftus last week. The Lions have a solid, experienced front row — Jannie du Plessis, Ruan Dreyer and Carlu Sadie are tough campaigners who have been around the block a few times. The Sharks had their moments in the set scrums against the Bok-laden Stormers but they can be inconsistent, and the Lions will look to attack the Sharks’ scrum. The Sharks line-out was not good in the first half in Cape Town and, again, the Lions will fancy their chances of disrupting the Sharks’ in this department.
Everitt will be hoping that most of the issues in this area last week were down to teething problems in that it was Reniel Hugo’s debut. The No 5 runs the Sharks’ lineout and he will be hoping that the new combinations settle down today.