Friday's Super Rugby: Lions and Sharks need to get back on track after defeats

Friday's Super Rugby: Lions and Sharks need to get back on track after defeats

(All the weekend’s teams elsewhere on Rugbyvaria under Super Rugby)

Two of South Africa’s four franchises will be in action on Friday, with the Lions and the Sharks both coming off losses in last weekend’s respective matches last weekend – the Lions against the Brumbies and the Sharks against the Jaguares. 

Both those defeats hurt, especially for the Sharks after beating the Lions the previous weekend by a very impressive 42-5, then losing by 17-51 at home to the Jaguares. It was a surprising and still quite inexplicable defeat that showed how lethargy, over-confidence, call it what you may, play their role in rugby.

The Lions are bottom of the pile in the SA Conference after playing in the competition’s last three finals since 2016.

Yes, Swys de Bruin has a rather new-looking team, but there is enough talent to at least make a fight for it as they didn’t against the Sharks, while the Brumbies defeat could be down to enforced team changes and a very average performance on the field.

Depth will remain a problem in their remaining tour matches, the first on Friday and the next against the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Chiefs vs  Lions, Waikato Stadium, Hamilton – 09:35

The Chiefs have turned their season around and have won three games on the bounce; the Lions are at the bottom of the South African conference and desperately need a win to save their season.

The Chiefs have won all five their previous home matches against South African sides with the Lions turning around five loses since 2010 with a close 36-32 win in 2016, their last visit to Hamilton.

If one talks head games, which is not out of order with the way the way that the Lions are fighting to keep afloat in the competition, there are the two losses against the Sharks and last week against the Brumbies (20-31) with no try scored by the Highveld side.

The Chiefs turnaround includes their win last weekend when they beat the Blues, albeit by a close 33-29, in Hamilton.

The Lions have their first-line loose trio doing duty for here for the first time this season, but whether Warren Whitley and to a lesser extent Kwagga Smith are not short of match practice will only be measured on Friday.

Coach De Bruin insists that new boy Gianni Lombard in his first match will play the full 80 minutes with Springbok Elton Jantjies being rested. When Jantjies comes off the bench he will slot in at centre to give the backline more zip.

Time will tell…

Even without their kingpin playmaker Damian McKenzie who is out or the season, the Chiefs are firm favourites to keep their winning streak going, perhaps by as much as ten pointss.

Sunwolves vs Hurricanes, Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo – 12:00

Coach Tony Brown has picked a forward, No.8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, at inside centre to try and keep the strong-running Hurricanes centre Ngani Laumape at bay. This could have the opposite effect that Brown wishes for as the Sunwolves, even in losing, do their best attacking with their free-running backs.

Warren-Vosayaco could just break that style and effectiveness.

The Sunwolves have now lost all four their home matches this year, albeit by smaller margins generally than last season.

But the Hurricanes, even without All Blacks Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea who are being rested – along with captain Dane Coles who is recovering from a calf strain – should be too strong for the Sunwolves as they try to get closer, or at least stay close to, the leading side Crusaders.

Sharks vs Reds, Kings Park – 15:05

Good, poor and mediocre are the performances from the Sharks in their eight matches to date.

One would expect a backlash from the Sharks after their shambolic showing against the Jaguares last weekend against the Reds. But then, it was expected that they would build on their 42-5 against the Lions at Ellis Park the week before.

Instead, they were totally outplayed by the Jaguares.

Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am gets his Boks rest game, with Kobus van Wyk, usually a wing, moving to outside centre. The Bok props, Beast Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen,  pack down in what could be a good unit on a good day with Jacques Vermeulen also packing down at flank.

The Reds last beat the Sharks in Durban 15 years ago in 2004 and have not won on tour to South Africa since 2015 when they beat the Cheetahs 18-17 in Bloemfontein.

Over the course of the Super Rugby competition since 1996, the Sharks have a home record against Australian teams of 21 wins from their 26 matches. They have beaten the Reds eight times in their 11 match-ups.

Reds coach Brad Thorn is probably right when he says the Sharks will want to repay their supporters for last weekend’s shock and he expects an exceedingly tough match.

Can they? That depends on which Sharks pitch on the day.

They should nevertheless win by 12 points or more, even on a relatively bad day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            hting to keep afloat in the competition, there are the two losses against the Sharks and last week against the Brumbies (20-31) with no try scored by the Highveld side.

The Chiefs turnaround includes their win last weekend when they beat the Blues, albeit by a close 33-29, in Hamilton.

The Lions have their first-line loose trio doing duty for here for the first time this season, but whether Warren Whitley and to a lesser extent Kwagga Smith are not short of match practice will only be measured on Friday.

Coach De Bruin insists that new boy Gianni Lombard in his first match will play the full 80 minutes with Springbok Elton Jantjies being rested. When Jantjies comes off the bench he will slot in at centre to give the backline more zip.

Time will tell…

Even without their kingpin playmaker Damian McKenzie who is out or the season, the Chiefs are firm favourites to keep their winning streak going, perhaps by as much as ten pointss.

Sunwolves vs Hurricanes, Prince Chichibu Stadium, Tokyo – 12:00

Coach Tony Brown has picked a forward, No.8 Rahboni Warren-Vosayaco, at inside centre to try and keep the strong-running Hurricanes centre Ngani Laumape at bay. This could have the opposite effect that Brown wishes for as the Sunwolves, even in losing, do their best attacking with their free-running backs.

Warren-Vosayaco could just break that style and effectiveness.

The Sunwolves have now lost all four their home matches this year, albeit by smaller margins generally than last season.

But the Hurricanes, even without All Blacks Beauden Barrett, Jordie Barrett and Ardie Savea who are being rested – along with captain Dane Coles who is recovering from a calf strain – should be too strong for the Sunwolves as they try to get closer, or at least stay close to, the leading side Crusaders.

Sharks vs Reds, Kings Park – 15:05

Good, poor and mediocre are the performances from the Sharks in their eight matches to date.

One would expect a backlash from the Sharks after their shambolic showing against the Jaguares last weekend against the Reds. But then, it was expected that they would build on their 42-5 against the Lions at Ellis Park the week before.

Instead, they were totally outplayed by the Jaguares.

Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am gets his Boks rest game, with Kobus van Wyk, usually a wing, moving to outside centre. The Bok props, Beast Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen,  pack down in what could be a good unit on a good day with Jacques Vermeulen also packing down at flank.

The Reds last beat the Sharks in Durban 15 years ago in 2004 and have not won on tour to South Africa since 2015 when they beat the Cheetahs 18-17 in Bloemfontein.

Over the course of the Super Rugby competition since 1996, the Sharks have a home record against Australian teams of 21 wins from their 26 matches. They have beaten the Reds eight times in their 11 match-ups.

Reds coach Brad Thorn is probably right when he says the Sharks will want to repay their supporters for last weekend’s shock and he expects an exceedingly tough match.

Can they? That depends on which Sharks pitch on the day.

They should nevertheless win by 12 points or more, even on a relatively bad day.