Bravo Sharks, what a magnificent victory and to me personally, one hell of a surprise.
Most of my Sharks buddies will know I have my reservations about the Sharks performances so far when it comes to quite a few things, but no-one, not even I can deny the magnificent performance the men from Durban dished up on Saturday to down one of the pre-tournament favourites, the Blues, especially in the first half.
I was at a party on Saturday and unbelievably, the friend whose birthday party it was, does not have DSTV! Unbelievable… Still, I listened to the game, or tried to on radio and watched it Sunday morning because I thankfully recorded it – and my reaction watching it was about the same as listening to it on Saturday, a feeling of disbelief of the complete game the Sharks dished up in the first 40.
Look we all knew they had it in them, I just thought it will be some time before I see it.
It was one of the better games from a South African team I watched in a while, and yet again showed just how important certain individuals are to the Sharks in their campaign to go one better than they did last year in the Super 14.
Players like Bismarck, Keegan and Michelak I think deserves special praise with Jacobs again doing some really good things when he came on – hell even Barritt looked a different player!
But the emphasis to me in the first 40 was total rugby, so even though I have singled a couple of players out, the way they gelled together were quite impressive.
I think there were a couple of reasons the Sharks dominated but will highlight only 3. I have maintained from the start they have one of the best tight 5’s in the competition and it showed (at last) on Saturday – this freed up their loosies with Keegan Daniel, also again vindicating an earlier call from me to start with him AND Botes, who together with Kankowski, were all over the Blues at the break-down nullifying their bigger, ball carrying loosies.
This in turn gave Michelak more time and space and we all know what he is capable of when given that and this in turn, took a hell of a lot of pressure of Barritt too who improved about 20% on his games in the previous 3 rounds.
Let me summarise what I just mentioned…
• Tight 5 dominate
• This frees up loosies who dominate breakdown
• This gives the Sharks the edge in both set pieces and broken play
• This in turn, gives their flyhalf and inside backs more time, which results is better execution and even, more options.
Isn’t rugby such a simple game???
In addition, what it also did is put the Blues players on the back foot all the time (retreating), it slowed down their ball at the breakdown which in turn, nullifies their dangerous backs who we know, thrive on quick recycled possession to run the opposition ragged.
It was simple, brutal and effective. No sissy pussyfooting ballerina rugby or romantic stuff or clichés like ‘giving the ball air’ or any crap like that – it was the way we should play rugby, and the way we play our best rugby.
The mauls worked, the pick and drives worked, the ball carriers crossed the advantage line, the loosies harassed the opposition on their ball and secured their own ball, and then all you need is one or two game-breakers and viola – you win the game.
Of course all of it did not go without a hitch, one of the biggest (and what seems to be a sickness in Sharks country) that seemed to carry over from last year and that is;
A GAME OF RUGBY IS 80 MINUTES LONG – NOT 40 ONLY, AND DEFINITELY NOT 79 MINUTES!!!
Man I would think the boys in black would know this after the final last year but it seems they still go into some lull at least 4 times in a match. The Blues could easily have come back and stolen this one and arguably only the fresh legs on defense denied them this but it is still too close for comfort and definitely not acceptable given their dominance in the first 40.
This era of the Sharks could well be remembered as their best in history, yes even eclipsing the golden years in the 90’s, but they have to understand that the difference between a good team, which they are, and a great team, which they can be, is that you do not let up for 80 minutes and put your opposition away when you have the chance.
There is still some tweaking to be done, and they can still improve possibly another 20 to 25% to where they find themselves currently, but they have to remember to take each game as it comes, and if it was up to me, I would approach Rolex to sponsor this team so they have a concept of time and the time you have in a game of rugby.
There is still also too much lateral running especially from 13 (Murray) which cuts down the space of his outside backs – maybe one of the Sharks supporters should send him a copy of the highlights of JW Jonker’s running for the Cheetahs for some tips.
If they can bring their outside backs into the game a bit more, even only by 10% (hell they have some talented ones out there so why not use them), the Sharks will be well on their way to get into the final 4 and even a home-semi.
That said, it was great to see a South African team dominate a New Zealand team, and a strong New Zealand team at that the way the Sharks did – bloody well done boys.Tweet