Last week’s Super 14 losers under pressure

It might only be the second round of the Super 14, but already last week’s six losers on home soil are under pressure to win – whether they’re playing at home or away this weekend.


And from a South African perspective, the clash between the Sharks and the Cheetahs in Durban looms largely as one where a local side will fall behind in their own schedules.


Another loss for the Sharks will be a near disaster – and it’s not an unlikely scenario against a side which beat them in the Currie Cup semi-final last year and has a near stranglehold on the Natalians.


Just last year, after an awful Super 14 campaign, the Cheetahs turned their season around with a 31-6 win against the Sharks in Bloemfontein.


They then went on to reach the Currie Cup final – albeit without their few Griquas Super 14 players.


The Sharks looked vulnerable last weekend. They lacked authority in the scrums, at flyhalf and even on the floor. They were ill-disciplined and couldn’t adapt to the referee, and leaked tackles when it counted.


Those aspects have been addressed in the team selection and also on the training field – as have the problems of the Cheetahs who were a tad unfortunate to go down by the margin of 51-34 to the Bulls last weekend.


They were a much better side than that. Interesting it will be to see whether John Smit’s move to hooker makes a difference to the Sharks scrummaging. One suspects it will, with more power at hooker and, with Smit’s move to the middle, also at tighthead.


In Pretoria at Loftus the Brumbies will be a real test for the defending champions who were in supreme form last Friday night in Bloemfontein.


The Brumbies have a well-balanced side, and the performance of the two flyhalves Morne Steyn and Matt Giteau can determine the outcome of this match – with ball in hand and also as place kickers.


The form of Deon Stegmann, the new confidence at scrum time and a backline where Wynand Olivier was outstanding last weekend makes them the favourites.


They also have that single point defeat in Canberra last year to turn around which nearly cost them a home final.


The Bulls are supremely confident; they’re at home at their beloved Loftus; and they’re on a winning roll that started last year.


The will have to be wary of over-confidence, however, and a side that have done some major signings during the off-season.


With former Western Force halfbacks Josh Valentine and Giteau in tandem again, , a hard-running backline built around veteran Stirling Mortlock and Adam Ashley-Cooper and loose forwards of the calibre of Stephen Hoilles, George Smith and Elsom, the Bulls will have their work cut out.


In Johannesburg, the Lions are also under pressure after a home defeat.


Another loss at home on Friday night against last year’s losing finalists the Chiefs will be bad news for a team trying to resurrect themselves from two poor seasons with new personnel on the coaching and player front those responsible for the turnaround.


There was enough promise in a second half against Stormers side that didn’t fire properly last weekend despite winning 26-13.


If the Lions wish to win their first of the season and only their fifth in 15 matches, they’ll have to play with the same commitment, support and flair as in the second half against the Stormers, when they scored the only points.


Much will depend on flyhalf Carlos Spencer, who was disappointing last weekend and slow in everything he did, as was his scrumhalf partner JP Joubert..


If Spencer gets his act right with another week on the Highveld under his belt, the centre pairing of Deon van Rensburg and Doppies la Grange that troubled the Stormers and two speedsters on the wing in Wandile Mjekevu and Tonderai Chavanga could play a major role.


Earl Rose, who also had an excellent outing both at fullback and flyhalf, could be

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