DURBAN – The wrong side of an aggregate score of 86-17 for the Sharks against the Jaguares this season is depressing stuff for their fans, but defence coach Braam van Straaten says the superiority of the Argentinians should be seen in the right context.
Perhaps the former Springbok flyhalf is clutching at straws as his team gear up for a final round-robin fling at Newlands against the Stormers – a match that will see the winners sneak into the top eight and secure a play-off – because the positives were hard to see in Buenos Aires at the weekend.
“The pressure they put you under is like that of a Test match team,” said Van Straaten, who along with breakdown coach Nick Easter did not travel with the team for this match.
“We knew they would come with line speed but we battled to cope with it. It is a real strength of their game. They play Test match rugby.
“We mustn’t forget that this Jaguares team has been together for close to four years now and they have enjoyed very good synergy from one coaching staff to another over the years, especially from (Pumas great) Mario Ledesma to (another Pumas great) Gonzalo Quesada, who is currently doing a fantastic job.”
But as good as the Jaguares were in their bonus-point 34-7 win, the Sharks were also off their game. They have now lost two matches in a row (to the Hurricanes and Jaguares) to undo the good of a productive overseas tour that saw positive performances against the Waratahs, Crusaders and Chiefs.
And now it all comes down to Saturday against a team who have lost only one of their last eight games in Cape Town.
“We have to hold onto the ball better than we did against the Jaguares… that made life difficult for us last week,” Van Straaten said.
“Our kicking game also wasn’t great. These are areas we have to sharpen up on because the Stormers are such a good defensive side. Their defence and their discipline are big strong points for them.”
If the Sharks want to improve on those areas, it would suit them to have form players in game management positions. That would mean re-installing Curwin Bosch at flyhalf after the unsuccessful recall of Robert du Preez last week, and the recall of game-breaker Aphelele Fassi at fullback.
The Sharks could also do with some luck on the injury front. Two of their best and most experienced players, Jean-Luc du Preez and Philip van der Walt, are on the injury list and the Sharks could do with their considerable leadership and expertise for the very tough visit to Newlands.
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