Rugby: Past defeats niggle Sharks and Stormers

By Mike Greenaway

Patrick Lambie struck seven from seven for the Sharks against the Cheetahs last week. Photo / NZPA
Patrick Lambie struck seven from seven for the Sharks against the Cheetahs last week. Photo / NZPA

The last time a team from Cape Town visited Kings Park they left with the Currie Cup, although a more pertinent argument could be that when the Sharks and Stormers last met in a Super rugby match, the Durbanites shocked Newlands by winning a place in the 2012 final at the cost of the SA Conference winners.

To coaches John Plumtree and Allister Coetzee, neither result will have any relevance come kickoff tomorrow apart from what they learned about the teams in those matches and have attempted to exploit or rectify in training.

For one thing, the Sharks have been working on their lineout ever since Western Province destroyed it last October. Plumtree said lessons were learned but laughed off suggestions that the Sharks were in the mood for vengeance.

"It still hurts me personally, but it has no relevance to this contest," he said.

Despite the coaches writing off history as irrelevant, the Stormers will not have forgotten the pain of losing the semifinal at home to the Sharks after having done the hard yards by winning the Conference while the Sharks players were horrified to be upset in the Currie Cup final in Durban.

The bottom line to be taken from both matches is that the winner is usually the team that mentally pitches on the day and that home ground advantage is meaningless if taken for granted.

History does tell us one thing, though. Early round games in Durban are almost always tight affairs and seldom yield a try-scoring bonus point because conditions are not conducive to running rugby. It either rains or is so humid it might as well be raining.

Sharks fans will thus be cheered by the form of goal kicker Patrick Lambie, who struck a sweet seven from seven last week against the Cheetahs while his opposite number tomorrow, Elton Jantjies, was off form both with the boot and in general play in the defeat to the Bulls.

Jantjies has been retained this week ahead of Peter Grant, who is on the bench after his return last week from Japan.

"It does not matter to us which of them is at 10 because both have hurt us before," Plumtree acknowledged. The coach is alluding to some telling performances against the Sharks by Jantjies for his old team, the Lions, while Grant has often played well in taking the ball to the line against the Sharks.

In fact that is one of the big differences between the two Stormers first-fives. Last week against the Bulls, Jantjies played too deep for his backline to be effective, and that is something both coaches will have noted.

Grant always plays a strong attacking game.

Plumtree said his team would have to improve at the breakdown this week, while Jean Deysel's inclusion at loose forward for Jacques Botes gives them an extra option at lineout time.

Coetzee was not shy to talk up the hosts: "The Sharks will always be a quality side. We said right from the start that it would be a tough start for us this season - playing two games away from home and playing three of the best franchises first up (they have the Chiefs next week).

"The Sharks aren't the favourites for nothing. They are playing well, they are coming off a good win over the Cheetahs ... and certain players are already on song."

- NZ Herald

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