Super Rugby Preview: Sharks and Stormers
You know how sometimes you think you have loads of time and then you realise that you have wasted whole weeks looking for surf, drinking too much and having incredibly bad and unwarranted hangovers?
No me neither.
Anyway, for various unrelated reasons I have run out of time and am thus going to combine the Sharks and Stormers previews into one post. Daring, I know. Risky… maybe but gosh darn it that is the way I like to live…right on the edge and sometimes drunkenly stumbling over it.
The Sharks had a terrible start to the tournament last year, losing their first few games, including losses to the Cheetahs and the Force (embarrassing), teams they would normally look to beat comfortably. They were playing catch up from then on and besides winning 7 of their last 8 games were effectively out of the competition.
This year a start like that would not be as bad considering the extra games available to make up lost points but they will be keen to get in some early wins, starting with their first game this Saturday against their bogey team, the Cheetahs.
The Sharks have a solid squad with new Bokke Charl McLeod, Pat baby face Lambie and speedster Lwazi Mvovo looking particularly sprightly. Captain John Smit is back from a long rest period and is looking fit and lean and is now able to touch his toes, after his first proper pre-season training in years. His experience will be invaluable and with the Du Plessis brothers and the Beast, the Sharks will look to dominate at scrum time.
Other players to look out include Ryan Kankowski, JP Pietersen, Stefan old man river Terblanche and man mountain Willem Alberts.
We had heard that Willem had taken up wrestling in order to keep fit in the off-season, so we asked him which Sharks he had wrestled with. His reply “Mostly Great Whites but sometimes Hammerheads”
Player to look out for: Keegan Daniel. Limited game time on the EOYT but keen to secure a spot in the Bok WC squad.
The Stormers made the finals of the Super 14 for the first time last year but lost to the Bulls and after losing the Currie Cup final to the Sharks will be itching to finally nab some silverware for their many, mostly loyal fans.
They have kept almost the exact same squad as last year but have added the considerable experience (and weight) of prop CJ van der Linde to bulk up their ever improving scrum. Andries Bekker is back from injury and with Captain Schalk Burger and Jaque Fourie rearing to go, expect some quality ‘hit you so hard your mom cries a bit’ tackles.
Bryan Habana had a shocker of a Tri-Nations last year and will be keen to regain the form that made him so lethal from 2007 to 2009. Jean de Villiers and Fourie will make up the centre pair with Juan de Jongh as back up. With the lightning quick speed of Gio Aplon and Habana, the reliability and kicking of Conrad Jantjies and the silky skills of Peter Grant (when he gets back from Japan) the Stormers have one of the more exciting back lines with the potential to score many tries.
Their depth will be tested with hooker Tiaan Liebenberg out for 9 weeks and Grant only back in 2 to 3 weeks but they are a very well coached squad with plenty of experience. The strongest part of their game recently has been their defence and if they can maintain that high level they will be a very hard team to beat this year.
Player to look out for: Jaque Fourie because well, it’s Jaque Fourie.