This week in South Africa there will be two teams playing at the opposite ends of the confidence spectrum. The Sharks are on a high after beating the Brumbies on the buzzer in Canberra. The Waratahs were on the end of a thrashing from the Lions in Bloemfontein. At 4:30 am AEDT only the tragics and the insomniacs will be watching, but a Sunday morning replay should be well attended.

Tom Robertson

Will this be “the look” this week?


There were some good things done in the last game but the overall feeling was that the Tahs are a team with deep-seated problems. Poor maul defence, bad tackle techniques, a scrum that looks second rate and a team that looks poorly conditioned. Still missing several regular starters, you would expect them to struggle.


Their come-from-behind win last week was a huge confidence boost. A team that rarely relies on its backs looked good whenever they went wide last week and ultimately that was the difference. That was away, this week they are home and despite the travel recovery they will be on a high.



To write this I forced myself to rewatch last week’s game; not an overly pleasant experience. Despite a poor refereeing performance that clearly favoured the Lions, there were serious fundamental problems with the Waratahs.

  1. Its hard at altitude, but more than half the team looked seriously under-conditioned. No Kiwi team would have been blowing as hard as the Tahs were from 20 minutes in till the final whistle.
  2. Maul defence under the current laws is very difficult, especially close to the line off lineouts. But the Waratahs technique was awful and I don’t think there was one Lions maul where the team didn’t give away penalty advantage for one reason or other.
  3. Robinson earned a yellow card for a lifting tackle, Naiyaravoro should have for a shoulder charge that was only penalised. Both just showed poor technique. Better than Hegarty though, who twice just stood and watched as the Lions waltzed through for tries. Poor technique, no technique – the result is the same.
  4. The scrum is not as bad as this time last year (thank goodness). But its getting pushed around and penalised despite having an all-Wallaby front row. This week the Sharks will attack that area expecting to win penalties.
Andrew Kellaway in space.

Andrew Kellaway: good last game, repeat please.


A full 80 minute performance got them the bikkies last week. Tight defence, very tough backrow, good scrum, they’ll have watched the tape of the Lions game and be licking their lips. Their 8 seagulls as an outside winger rather than an outside centre and it was very effective against the Brumbies. In their own half they always kick for field position, their game is built on safety-first and their backs are quite effective once they get down the other end. They were vulnerable last week when the opposition fullback ran it back from deep, but Toua is a very elusive runner from there.


The Sharks have named an unchanged line-up from 1-23. That will help developing combinations and team morale will be on a high.

For the Waratahs, Skelton’s hamstring didn’t recover and, in a change warranted by the form last week, McDuling gets his first Waratah start at the expense of Toleafoa, who drops to the bench.Phipps is back at 9, Lucas goes to the bench. Hard on Lucas, he was one of the best last week. Clark comes onto the bench for Naiyaravoro and may get his first cap in sky blue. There were no other changes, with many regular starters still in team rehab.


Hard to see anything but a win to the Sharks, unless the Waratahs can really turn their performance around. Their attack was not a problem last week; they scored 30+ points and left at least two tries out on the park. But defence and forward play were real issues and that’s where the Sharks are strongest. I predict Sharks by 8.



1. Tendai Mtawarira
2. Franco Marais
3. Coenie Oosthuizen
4. Stephen Lewies
5. Ruan Botha
6. Phillip van der Walt
7. Jean-Luc du Preez
8. Tera Mtembu
9. Cobus Reinach
10. Patrick Lambie
11. Lwazi Mvovo
12 Andries Esterhuizen
13. Lukhanyo Am
14.Kobus van Wyk
15. Clement Poitrenaud
16. Chilliboy Ralapelle
17. Thomas du Toit
18. Lourens Adriaanse
19. Jean Droste
20. Jacques Vermeulen
21. Michael Claasens
22. Jeremy Ward
23. Curwin Bosch


1. Tom Robertson
2. Tolu Latu
3. Sekope Kepu
4. Dean Mumm
5. David McDuling
6. Jack Dempsey
7. Michael Hooper (c)
8. Michael Wells
9. Nick Phipps
10. Bryce Hegarty
11. Rob Horne
12. Irae Simone
13. Israel Folau
14. Reece Robinson
15. Andrew Kellaway
16. Hugh Roach
17. Paddy Ryan
18. David Lolohea
19. Senio Toleafoa
20. Maclean Jones
21. Matt Lucas
22. David Horwitz
23. Cameron Clark


Match : Sharks vs Waratahs
Date : Sunday, 12th March 2017
Venue : Growthpoint Kings Park
Kick Off: 0430 AEDT
Referee: Marcus van der Westhuizen

  • Kiwi rugby lover

    Can’t argue with any of this Hawko, although I will say that if the Tahs get some points on early it could go their way.
    The rolling maul is hard and you have to immediately sack the jumper when he lands. Hard to do but if you get an immediate push on you can disrupt the drive. I didn’t like the way some of their players seemed to pull on the maul and I think it opens them up for sanction which could be dangerous. Hooper needs to step up as a captain and start leading by more than just example too

  • ForceFan

    A very fair assessment Hawko.
    I’ll go with Sharks by 15.
    My other observations from the Lion’s game were:
    + The low input of on-field leadership by Michael Hooper; and
    + Unusually Hooper seemed absolutely spent after half time.

  • Braveheart81

    Skelton has obviously been key to their maul defence in the past and they have to come up with a solution without him. Clearly the Sharks will have seen what the Lions did to the Tahs in that department and try and replicate it.

    The Lions were making it hard to sack because the jumpers were blocking the catcher (which shouldn’t have been allowed) but the Tahs didn’t adjust at all. Rather than trying to unsuccessfully sack the jumper (because they couldn’t reach him) or sacking the lifters (which gave away penalties), they had to take a step back and let the lifters engage them in front of the ball which at least should have been penalised.

    Certainly the Tahs need to avoid conceding so much territory and penalties so they don’t have to face down so many 5m lineouts. Regardless of how good your maul defence is, you’re going to leak points if you keep giving the opposition lineout throws on your 5m line.

  • Lee Grant

    Excellent preview Hawko.

    After Johannesburg last week mauling the Tahs will be a mantra for opponents.

    They already knew that they they should kick to them a lot (as do the ABs against the Wobs), because the Tahs’ exit kicks are poor and when they try to run the ball out of their own half they are too vulnerable to being turned over for one reason or another.

    The Tahs were in contact last week early in the game but they looked rooted suddenly and couldn’t get off the ground quickly enough – and the ones that did couldn’t cover everything in time.

    Hopefully that malady will not recur at sea level.

  • Blinky Bill of Bellingen NSW

    Hopefully the Tahs will prepare for how Marcus van der Westhuizen Refs the game, and play accordingly and how to counter the mauls that thev’ve got to know will be coming their way.

    Last week they seemed totally unprepared for altitude and how best to exit their 22, sea level should be friendlier on the lungs. I wonder what rabbit will be pulled out of the Waratah hat to get them that hard to get win on the road, that separates the men from the boys.


Grew up watching Catchpole and Hawthorne, then later the Ella brothers, on Channel Two on Saturday afternoon. Expert commentary by Cyril Towers. No better rugby education ever to be had.

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