Currie Cup 2019: Cell C Sharks vs. DHL Western Province
Venue: Jonsson Kings Park Stadium, Durban
Date: Saturday, 20 July 2019
The Sharks will know that the sprint format that Currie Cup has taken on this year means that they cannot afford to lose more ground. The key to securing one of the four available playoff berths is sustained effort over this short period of time, and any team that loses two games in a row is going to find it very difficult to fight their way into the Top 4.
The Durban side were awful against Griquas. It was one of those games where a coach can’t even evaluate his team properly because of how hapless they were. Griquas outperformed them in every phase of the game in their 37-13 defeat, with the crowd at Jonsson Kings Park Stadium barely being able to believe what they were seeing.
Western province, on the other hand, will be very pleased with their opening game as they took care of the Bulls 20-5 in Cape Town. The win was impressive, with the manner of victory even more so, as WP managed to shut down an extremely talented Blue Bulls backline and conceded just the one try in 80 minutes of rugby.
The Sharks will have to look for a different way to play after their Round 1 disaster. In that game, they tried to move the ball too much, especially given the wet conditions, throwing it around carelessly in situations where they would have been better served to play the percentages and clear down to the other end of the pitch. Expect to see the big boots in the Sharks lineup kick the ball more this time out as they can’t be turned over as much in their own end again.
Playing a more expansive game and growing their players into a more attacking mindset is a huge point of emphasis for Sharks in the Currie Cup this year. This is a good thing given how rugby is played in 2019, but the decision making must be better than it was last time out.
As mentioned above, the aspect of Western Province’s game that really stood out in Round 1 was their defense. It was a complete performance on that side of the ball, with the team showing excellent line speed in getting off the ball and into the faces of the Blue Bulls playmakers. On the occasions that the away side did get the ball into space, Western Province also excelled in their scramble defense, flowing to the ball in numbers and shutting down some dangerous-looking opportunities.
Western Province also looked great in the scrums, destroying the Blue Bulls set piece with their ability to drive over the top of them. Look for the away side here to try to keep that scrum dominance going as they know that front-foot ball will be key in this one.
The Sharks will get better as the season goes on, but there is no reason to back anything other than a Western province win here. The conditions will be dry, which will help the Sharks new attacking mentality, but the reason that they lost to Griquas was because of defensive pressure forcing mistakes. In Round 1 there was no better defensive team than Western Province, so expect the same attacking defensive gameplan from the visitors as they take the victory back to Cape Town.