The Sharks need Willie le Roux to be at his decision-making best when they take on the Jaguares in what should be a free-flowing game in Durban on Saturday.
After an ill-disciplined and impatient first-half performance in their Super Rugby opener against the Kings last weekend, the Sharks cleaned up their act and produced a compelling display in the second stanza.
Their attacking intent was particularly encouraging, with Le Roux playing an important part in one try – albeit in the first half – while also impressively finishing off a solo effort of his own at the beginning of the second period.
Of course it’s not just a one-man show, but Le Roux definitely looks to have added a different dimension to the Sharks’ attack, and his counter-attacking threat and willingness to join the line – even at first receiver – has brought some much-needed X factor to the Durbanites’ backline play.
His performance was far from perfect against the Kings, but if the dynamic fullback can produce a composed display against a Jaguares side that had their own disciplinary and defensive problems against the Cheetahs, it should go a long way to helping achieve a positive result for the Sharks.
The kicking game of Le Roux, Joe Pietersen and Cobus Reinach will also be of utmost importance against a Jaguares side that certainly won’t be afraid to run the ball themselves. As an aside: the Argentinian side impressively beat 45 defenders in their Super Rugby opener.
It also won’t have escaped the Sharks’ attention that the Jaguares managed to overcome two yellow cards and a 21-point deficit to defeat the Cheetahs.
In particular, the influence of halfback duo Nicolás Sánchez and two-try hero Martin Landajo (ill-discipline aside) cannot be underestimated, and these are two men the Sharks will need to keep under wraps.
It should be a fascinating clash in Durban, with both sides still having plenty to prove. But with home-ground advantage, and perhaps some Le Roux magic, the Sharks should edge it.
STATS AND FACTS
– After opening their 2016 campaign with a win, the Sharks will be aiming for a fifth win in a row for the first time since a run of five on the bounce across the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
– The Sharks have won 20 of their last 24 matches when hosting a team from outside South Africa, though none of the last four of those wins has come by more than six points.
– The Jaguares beat 45 defenders in their historic victory in round one, 17 more than any other team (Cheetahs, Waratahs).
– Lwazi Mvovo (four) made more breaks than any other player in the opening round.
– Santagio Cordero beat a competition-best eight defenders on the first weekend of action.
Sharks – 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Joe Pietersen, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Franco Marais, 1 Beast Mtawarira (c).
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Garth April, 23 S’bura Sithole.
Jaguares – 15 Santiago Cordero, 14 Matías Orlando, 13 Matías Moroni, 12 Santiago González Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Nicolás Sánchez, 9 Martín Landajo, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Rodrigo Báez, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustín Creevy (captain), 1 Santiago García Botta.
Subs: 16 Julián Montoya, 17 Felipe Arregui, 18 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 19 Javier Ortega Desio, 20 Facundo Isa, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Joaquín Paz, 23 Lucas González Amorosino.
Referee: Jaco Peyper (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco van Heerden (South Africca), Cwengile Jadezweni (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)