Early momentum key to Sharks success
22 May 2012
JON CARDINELLI writes that a superior first-half performance will set the platform for a Sharks victory against a Stormers side that tends to fade in the dying stages.
The Sharks haven’t beaten the Stormers since 2010, but will have more than a good chance of doing so this weekend. Apart from home ground advantage, they will come into this clash with all the momentum. While the Stormers have churned out good results, they have begun to tire in recent clashes and may well be due a loss.
The Sharks must seize on what is a great opportunity. A win against the log leaders will be a powerful statement regarding their resurgence. It will also close the gap between the Sharks and those two South African superpowers, the Stormers and Bulls, at the top of the local conference.
A look at the respective campaigns of the Sharks and Stormers makes for interesting reading. The Stormers have been consistent as far as winning is concerned with a record of 10 from 11, while the Sharks have a less flattering seven from 12 return. But what that record won’t indicate is how the Sharks have started to hit form in recent weeks and how the Stormers have eked their way to some narrow wins.
It requires a more thorough analysis to reveal that the Stormers have been less consistent than the Sharks in terms of point-scoring this season. Last week’s match against the Waratahs was a case in point, as the Stormers scored 16 points in the first half but only three in the second.
A look at their campaign as a whole will confirm that on average, the Stormers do the bulk of their scoring in the first 40 minutes and tend to tail off as the game draws to a close. The Stormers have scored 245 points over 11 games with 162 scored in the first half and 83 in the second.
On nine occasions they have led at half-time, and while they might point to their win record in an attempt to deflect criticism, the statistics confirm that they are indeed less prolific in the second stanza.
In fact, if you break down every match this season into two halves, you will find that the Stormers have been outscored in the second half a total of seven times.
It would suggest that if a team manages to lead the Stormers at half-time, they have a good chance of taking the final spoils. The only loss the Stormers have suffered this season is to the Crusaders, and they did trail the Cantabrians 19-13 at the break.
It becomes interesting if you hold up these statistics to those of the Sharks. The Sharks don’t have as good a win-record, but what they have managed to do consistently is win the second half. They have outscored their opponents in the second stanza on eight out of 12 matches.
The Stormers have the best defensive record in the competition, but again a comparison of their first- and second-half stats confirms their inconsistency. While they have conceded a total of just 69 points in the first half of games played this season, they’ve leaked substantially more (102 points) after half-time.
You don’t need pages of stats to tell you that the Stormers aren’t as effective in the second period as they are in the first. It’s been most evident in their last two games, as they scored zero against the Cheetahs and then just three against the Waratahs. The coach and captain have spoken at length about consistency, and how it continues to elude them.
The stats of the most recent game between the Sharks and Stormers goes against all of these trends. The Sharks led that match 9-6 at half-time, but were outscored and ultimately beaten by the Stormers in the second.
What should be taken into account, however, is that particular game was played in the second round of the competition, some three months ago. From that point until present, the trends have been consistent with the Sharks presenting more of a threat in the second period and the Stormers tailing off towards the end of a game.
It should also be remembered that the Sharks played that game without a number of key forwards. This coming Saturday, the situation is set to be reversed. John Plumtree has welcomed back a host of Springbok heavies in recent weeks while Allister Coetzee has had to scour the globe in search of like-for-like loose forward replacements. The Sharks pack will be at full strength.
The men who have toiled for the navy blue jersey are starting to look tired, and the Sharks will feel confident that they can outplay this Stormers side in the second half of Saturday’s game.
A strong start by the Sharks will make life more difficult for the Stormers. If the Sharks enjoy a good lead at the break and the Stormers are forced to play catch up, the form book and statistics suggest the hosts will emerge victorious.