Super Rugby 2018: Lions v Sharks Preview

Rugby Player dives for the try line

South African rugby rivalries will be renewed this weekend with the Lions and Sharks set to square off in the first national derby of the year on Saturday the 17th of February. 

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s finally here! Super Rugby gets back underway this weekend with two mouth-watering contests. The pick of the action will take place in Johannesburg on Saturday when the Lions entertain the Sharks. The two-time losing finalist Lions begin their first season without influential coach Johan Ackermann at the helm and their performances in the coming months are sure to make for fascinating viewing.

Lions v Sharks 

Saturday 17 February
Emirates Airlines Park
17:15


To Win (80 Mins)
Lions 3/10 

Draw 25/1
Sharks 5/2


Handicap
Lions (-8.5) 9/10

Sharks (+8.5) 9/10

Lions
A new era beckons at the Lions this week as the pride of Johannesburg attempt to adjust to life without their beloved “Coach Ackers” for the first time since their return to Super Rugby. The former Springbok forward was the heartbeat of a side that went on to lose two consecutive Super Rugby finals, in 2016 and 2017, but Gautengers will be hoping that Ackermann’s former right-hand man, Swys de Bruin, can keep things on the up and up in Egoli.

That said, one shouldn’t expect too much to change from a Lions perspective. With a settled squad of players and a coach familiar with the side’s structures, the Lions should be back up and roaring again in no time. Naturally, the key to their accomplishments this season will rest with the senior player group, and the likes of Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Elton Jantjies, Malcolm Marx and Franco Mostert will need to rally their teammates around them if they are to continue in a similar vein as seasons past.

The Sharks pose a tricky challenge first up for the Lions, who should take the win with a dominant forward display. The Natalians thrive off gain line dominance and will struggle to assert themselves if they are going backwards in the collisions. Indeed, heavy-hitters such as Malcolm Marx will be key in this regard as they look to curb the visitors’ momentum throughout the 80.

Sharks
Robert du Preez’s men have had a few very promising preseason results and will be confident of upsetting the Lions at home in round one. Du Preez’s no-nonsense approach seems to have worked wonders for the Currie Cup runners-up and there is every reason to believe that they can build on their domestic success with a solid run in this season’s edition of Super Rugby.

The truth can be as mundane as Naas Botha’s post-match SuperSport analysis, but the fact of the matter is that the Sharks will win the contest if they boss the breakdown and collisions. Slowing down quick Lion ball, something off of which they thrive, will be crucial to their hopes while keeping up with their intensity and fitness-levels will also prove crucial.

It will be fascinating to see whether the Sharks do opt for a more running approach or stick to what worked for them in last season’s Currie Cup. On the basis of their opponents this week, they may just opt for the latter.


The Cell C Sharks
  1. Juan Schoeman
  2. Franco Marais
  3. Thomas du Toit
  4. Ruan Botha (Captain)
  5. Stephan Lewies
  6. Philip van der Walt
  7. Jacques Vermeulen
  8. Keegan Daniel
  9. Cameron Wright
  10. Robert du Preez
  11. Makazole Mapimpi
  12. Andre Esterhuizen
  13. Lukhanyo Am
  14. Sbu Nkosi
  15. Lwazi Mvovo
Replacements
  1. Akker van der Merwe
  2. John-Hubert Meyer
  3. Beast Mtawarira
  4. Hyron Andrews
  5. Daniel du Preez
  6. Michael Claassens
  7. Curwin Bosch
  8. Kobus van Wyk
The Lions
  1. Jacques van Rooyen
  2. Malcolm Marx
  3. Ruan Dreyer
  4. Andries Ferreira
  5. Franco Mostert
  6. Kwagga Smith
  7. Cyle Brink
  8. Warren Whiteley
  9. Ross Cronje
  10. Elton Jantjies
  11. Aphiwe Dyantyi
  12. Harold Vorster
  13. Lionel Mapoe
  14. Sylvian Mahuza
  15. Andries Coetzee
Replacements
  1. Robbie Coetzee
  2. Dylan Smith
  3. Jacobie Adriaanse
  4. Marvin Orie
  5. Marnus Schoeman
  6. Hacjivah Dayimani
  7. Howard Mnisi
  8. Rohan Janse van Rensburg

Verdict: Sharks (+8.5) 9/10
An upset is certainly not beyond the realms of reality, but I do think that the Lions will have the pedigree to take this one at home. I am backing the Sharks to run them close though; they sure do look like a team on the up!

Written by Shaun Goosen for @Hollywoodbets.net

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