It’s must win for the Sharks when they host a much-changed Jaguares side in their Super Rugby fixture at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
With just one spot available in the play-offs, the Sharks must beat the Argentines and hope the Rebels lose at the Highlanders. There is a scenario that the Sharks could still progress if the Rebels take one bonus-point from the game as they’d have a better points differential.
All the mathematical headaches, however, will not concern the Sharks as they know the job at hand, which they should be able to accomplish.
This is a Jaguares side clearly preparing for next weekend as they have already booked their place in the knockouts thanks to a superb run. Granted that came to an end last week in Pretoria but to make the play-offs is a remarkable achievement. Many an opposition will fear them.
What is also in the hosts’ favour is that each of the Sharks’ last seven matches has been won by the home team on the day, with the Durban side picking up four home wins in that time. Although they lost in Buenos Aires, expect them to prevail in Durban. But will it be in vain?
All eyes will be on Dunedin on Saturday morning South African time, with Robert du Preez’s men hoping a second-string Highlanders side can do them a favour before the action kicks off in Durban.
The last time the teams met: The Jaguares claimed their first ever win over the Sharks in May this year as they prevailed 29-13 in Buenos Aires. A hat-trick from Ramiro Moyano and one from Bautista Delguy helped the Argentines to a bonus-point win, with Ruan Botha replying for the Sharks.
Players to watch:
For Sharks: The Sharks will need to press themselves on their opponents up front where Tendai Mtawarira, Thomas du Toit and Akker van der Merwe need to show their class. However, it’s the game management that we feel the hosts must capitalise on especially against an inexperienced Jaguares fly-half. Robert du Preez is therefore charged with getting on top in the playmaking department which he will be confident of doing.
For Jaguares: Rare game time will be relished by several Jaguares players on Saturday, one of which is Julian Montoya. So often playing second fiddle to Agustin Creevy, Montoya will be eager to impress so expect a busy hour of work before Creevy appears. Elsewhere keep an eye on Ramiro Moyano, who proved a handful in the reverse fixture earlier this year.
Team news: Sharks head coach Robert du Preez has largely stuck with last week’s side in naming his team for Saturday.
That this is a must-win match, a knock-out or final if you will, cannot be more emphasised and the team know only too well the importance riding on the outcome of the match.
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.
Form: The Sharks have been inconsistent throughout this season with their record of six wins, a draw and eight defeats meaning their hopes of knockout rugby come down to the final day. Of late they have won, lost, won, lost, won, lost and will hope that pattern continues on Saturday.
The Jaguares meanwhile had their seven-game winning streak ended last week at the hands of the Bulls at Loftus. That run of form however has secured them a play-off spot which is remarkable considering their early-season form.
Prediction: Against a much-changed Jaguares side it’s hard not to lean towards the hosts. Sharks by 15.
2018: Jaguares won 29-13 in Buenos Aires
2017: Sharks won 33-25 in Buenos Aires
2017: Sharks won 18-13 in Durban
2016: Sharks won 25-22 in Buenos Aires
2016: Sharks won 19-15 in Durban
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
Date: Saturday, July 14
Venue: Kings Park, Durban
Kick-off: 17:15 local (16:15 BST, 15:15 GMT)
Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge
Assistant Referees: Egon Seconds, Archie Sehlako
TMO: Willie Vos