Super Rugby Quarter-Finals: Lions v Sharks Preview

Lions v Sharks quarter-final Preview - Three Rugby Players One Being Tackled With Ball in Hand

We preview Saturday's quarter-final between the much-fancied Lions and their domestic rivals, the Sharks.


The Lions and Sharks are set to battle it out for the second week in succession when the two sides collide in Johannesburg this Saturday. Having topped the overall Super Rugby log, and having eased to a comfortable 27-10 victory over the same opposition in Durban last week, the Lions will be red-hot favourites to end what has been a frustratingly inconsistent season for the Durbanites; who should struggle to gain any kind of ascendancy at a packed-out Emirates Airline Park.


Lions v Sharks | Saturday 22 July | Emirates Airline Park | 14:30

To Win (80 Mins)

Lions | Draw | Sharks
Handicap
Lions (-14.5) 9/10| Sharks (+14.5) 9/10


Lions

It is perhaps a measure of the calibre of this Lions outfit that they can put on as incongruent a showing as they did at Kings Park last weekend, and still come away with a solid 17-point win. They certainly didn't put on a typical Lions performance - indeed, their lack of cohesion was seriously worrying at times - but the fact of the matter is that they got over the line in the end. Comfortably.

They will be supremely confident of blowing the Sharks away again this weekend, and secure a home semi-final; not least because of the form of a certain Kwagga Smith. The diminutive flanker put on a fantastic show in Durban last week, not unlike those we have come to expect from the Blitzboks star over the past season or two, and he really does look as though he can properly challenge for a place in Allister Coetzee's Springbok squad in the upcoming Rugby Championship.

Nevertheless, Kwagga and the rest of his pack of forwards struggled in the scrum at times last week, and this is surely an area that Johan Ackerman and his coaches will look to rectify ahead of Saturday's big encounter. A more solid display up front will allow for the likes of Elton Jantjies to set his back-line alight, and perhaps run in one or two more of their spectacular tries along the way.

Sharks

What is to be made of this bunch? Their last two performances have been absolutely shocking, as they have seemingly failed to pitch up on match-day during losses to both the Bulls and the Lions. Their bewildering inconsistency this season is perhaps only trumped by coach Robert du Preez's baffling decision to start an out of sorts Garth April at flyhalf last week, ahead of the immensely talented Curwin Bosch. It was most certainly a gamble that did not pay off in the slightest.

Having secured qualification by the skin of their teeth, the Natalians will be in search of a monumental upset this weekend. The Lions performed at around 40% last week and still managed to outplay the Sharks - it's scary to think what they will be able to do playing at 70 or 80%. This Sharks side won't get within miles (so basically, around 10 Franco Mosterts) of their hosts this Saturday. Not by playing the way they did in Durban, that is.

Verdict: Lions (14.5) 9/10
Have no doubt; the Lions will stroll to a routine win this weekend. They may well go on to lift their first ever Super Rugby trophy in a few weeks' time - and a mediocre Sharks side certainly won't have the quality to stand in their way.
Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net

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