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Thursday, May 30, 2024

Sharks, Stormers need to shake off the gremlins bedevilling play in URC

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It’s desperation mode for the Stormers and Sharks this weekend as they seek to turn their losing fortunes around in the United Rugby Championship (URC).

The Stormers, South Africa’s premier side over the past two seasons and former URC champions, have a tough task at Thomond Park in Limerick when they take on champions Munster in their third match of the European tour on Saturday.

They are 0-2 so far, after falling to Glasgow Warriors and Benetton, and something seriously needs to click for the Cape side if they are to turn their fortunes around.

They have had little success with their usually powerful scrums, and haven’t reaped the rewards of a good rolling maul in the first two tour matches.

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Not mission impossible

Getting that right against Munster, who boast one of the best forward packs in the competition, will be a big ask. But it is not an impossible one.

And then there are the gremlins that are hampering their attacking prowess.

Sometimes players are trying to do too much when they need to keep things simple and not force an attacking play. At other times, they have spurned some magical plays by holding on to the ball.

The Sharks are almost in the same boat, where they play so well, but their skills let them down at crucial times.

The good thing is that they are back in Durban and in front of their fans at Kings Park. So they will have to deliver a better performance than they did in Europe.

The backs had some silky smooth touches when they ran with the ball in hand, but frustratingly, they dropped regulation passes and were uncomfortable under box kicks.

Connacht, who travel to Durban this week, will definitely pepper the Sharks with kicks while trying to penetrate their defence with the ball in hand, come Saturday.

The Sharks desperately need winning momentum from somewhere.

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Testing times ahead

The Champions Cup and SA derbies in the URC will commence soon, and if they continue on this track, it could become a long season for the Durban side.

On Friday, the Lions will face Ulster after being bolstered by a fighting win over the Scarlets. While they produced some quality rugby between the backs and forwards in the victory in Wales, they will have to keep this up for 80 minutes to subdue the Irish powerhouses.

Should the Lions pull off an upset, there is a realistic chance that they can return to South Africa with a 75% win record on their tour.

They face Zebre in their final game next weekend, and that will be a match they’ll definitely target for five points.

The Bulls are the only shining light in the SA conference at the moment and top the overall tournament log after five rounds.

Another good performance against Edinburgh on Friday will go a long way in showing that they can get by without their Springbok players.

And with the expected return of outside backs Willie le Roux, Canan Moodie, and Kurt-Lee Arendse, they will return to Pretoria with plenty of confidence should they prevail in Scotland.

They are playing a brilliant brand of rugby with their powerful forwards and backline and will look to improve on their last outing when they face a strong Edinburgh, who, just like them, have only lost one match so far.

@Leighton_K

IOL Sport

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