Planet Rugby

Preview: Sharks v Stormers

01st March 2013 11:06

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Pat Lambie Sharks v Stormers 2012

Patrick Lambie: Pulling all the right the strings for the Sharks

The Stormers will want to avoid occupying last spot on the SA conference for a second week running when they tackle the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Over the past couple of years, the Stormers have been used to life at the top of the pile. However last week's dire opening defeat to the Bulls saw the rusty Stormers leave Pretoria empty-handed and rooted to the bottom of their group.

And with two tough fixtures to follow against last year's finalists - the Sharks and Chiefs - the men from the Cape know only a win will do at the 'Shark Tank'.

But based on the visitors' performance in the capital, it's going to take a monumental effort for the Stormers to exact revenge over the team that rained on their parade in last season's semi-finals.

Having been touted as the team to beat in the build-up to the 2013 event, the Stormers instead were a shadow of the side that tackled their way to the play-offs.

Granted, they never were the most exciting team to watch with ball in hand last year - or the year before that - so nothing was expected of them in that department against the Bulls. However, everything else just didn't click as they struggled in the set-piece while the less said about their goal-kicking the better.

Elton Jantjies gets a second shot at fly-half though, but one has to wonder how many missed kicks it will take for coach Allister Coetzee to bring on the ever-reliable Peter Grant, who is back from his stint in Japan and riding pine for the Stormers this weekend.

On the other end of the scale, the Sharks head into this derby encounter between the two coastal teams brimming with confidence, having banked four points from last week's win over the never-say-die Cheetahs.

Their forwards were particularly impressive in Bloemfontein, as they dominated the scrums and upset the Cheetahs' line-out on numerous occasions - two areas the Stormers struggled in against the Bulls.

The Sharks have try-scoring weapons across the park - well, so do the Stormers, but their opposition just know how to use them better - and their pack is arguably the best at getting over the advantage line

They also landed all of their kicks at goal against the Cheetahs, and with last week's man-of-the-match Patrick Lambie once again controlling proceedings at the back behind a solid pack, the hosts could be off to a 2-0 start compared to last year's opening two defeats.

The Sharks also hold the upper hand after beating the Stormers twice last year - home and away, with the second win in the shadow of Table Mountain proving to be a bitter pill to swallow for Coetzee's troops.

So will it be a case of sweet revenge for the Stormers? Or will the Sharks inflict more woe on their South African counterparts? Either way, we're in for another belter of a match.

Prediction: The only way is up for the Stormers, but based on the two teams' respective performances so far this year, there can be only one outcome on Saturday. Sharks by seven!

The teams:

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Francois Steyn (c), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Odwa Ndungane.

Stormers: 15 Joe Pietersen, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jean de Villiers (c), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Rynhardt Elstadt, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 De Kock Steenkamp, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Martin Bezuidenhout, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Don Armand, 19 Nizaam Carr, 20 Louis Schreuder, 21 Peter Grant, 22 Gerhard van den Heever.

Date: Saturday, March 2
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 19.10 (17.10 GMT)
Referee: Jonathan Kaplan (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Cobus Wessels (South Africa)
TMO: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)

By Dave Morris

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