I think that as Sharks fans (well, most of us, anyway), we need to always remember to count our blessings.
try time put up an article this morning that was perceived as being very negative. I don’t feel that his intention was to break the Sharks down in any way, but rather to offer constructive criticism and a dose of realism regarding where we are right now. Michael Marnewick put up a piece on the official Sharks site this morning that presented seemingly a completely different picture of the season thus far. Who is right? Or is it a case of the truth lying somewhere in between, as always?
Let’s start by looking a some facts.
1) The Sharks are unbeaten. That’s right – in every single one of the five games we have played, we have emerged with more points than the opposition. This includes wins over the Bulls (remember, they won last year) and the Blues (last year’s 4th-placed team). The only other team int he tournament that is currently unbeaten is the Crusaders.
2) The Sharks have not scored huge number of tries so far and have notched up a four-try bonus point in only one of the five games played to date. The Crusaders have scored the required four tries in four of their five matches to date, leaving them with a three-point lead over the Sharks at the top of the log.
3) The Sharks are in second position on the log! The next-best placed SA team is the Stormers in 7th place. They have already lost three games, as have the Bulls. The Lions have lost four and the Cheetahs haven’t won a single game in five outings to date.
4) The Sharks have the best defensive record in the competition, having let in only 5 tries at an average of one a game. Compare that to the Cheetahs, who may have scored a few more than we have, but have conceded 22 in the process.
The Crusaders have been handed a beautiful draw this year. Their only potentially tough away matches were against the Bulls (which they won easily), the Force (which they won, despite some initial jitters) and the Hurricanes (which they have not yet played). They play all the other front-runners (Sharks, Blues and Waratahs) at home. These guys are seriously well-placed to go through the round-robin stage unbeaten. The Sharks, in contrast, have a tour from hell. We have five tough away games still to come on tour (although realistically we should expect to stuff both the Highlanders and the Brumbies wherever we play them this year) as well as a derby match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. We will need to win at least 4 of those away games to stand any chance of a home semi final. To finish top, either we need to win all of them, or we need somebody else to do us a favour and beat the Crusaders.
Quite honestly, it ain’t gonna happen. You can blame the draw, which is in this case a valid thing to do, but the Sharks are not likely to finish in first place this year. In order to stand any realistic chance of doing that, we would have needed to be at least 2 or 3 points better off on the log that we are now.
This, I feel, is why some degree of negativity on the part of the fans is justified. We came so close last year, fought so hard to host the final, only to lose it in the dying seconds. What hope do we honestly have of going one better this year if we are forced to trek to Jade for a final? Worse, what if we end up traveling for the semi as well?
That said, we need to keep perspective here. We are not letting in a lot of tries and there’s no reason to think that that factor will change in coming weeks. The team will only get better defensively as the season progresses. How exactly are we expecting any team (and this includes the Crusaders) to beat us if we don’t let them score tries? Let’s be brutally honest here – if this Sharks team clicks and plays their best game for 80 minutes, the Crusaders won’t be able to live with them. That’s right – I feel we have fewer individual stars, but a far better 22 overall than they do and I don’t for an instant believe that we won’t be able to beat them in Christchurch if we play to our strengths.
So let’s count our blessings, shall we? We haven’t tasted defeat yet this year and God willing, we won’t know what that is like for a good few weeks yet. The team is growing in confidence and there are plenty guys pushing hard for selection. I mean, all that is really concerning us at this stage is how best to rearrange the backline to maximise the attacking potential. Other SA teams are worrying about where the hell they are going to find a fit flyhalf, fullback or set of wings that is in any way good enough to be playing at this level. All of the overseas teams have shown glaring signs of weakness that we can exploit and even the Saders are fallible. Let’s go and get them.
Love them or fear them – Sharks forever!Tweet