Our good friends at the Sharksrugby site have put up an article about the successes of the Sharks team so far this season, but a balanced view is needed so this article presents the other side of the coin.
The Sharks are second on the log and rightfully so, but they have not made their lives easy for the rest of the competition. It is a glaringly obvious fact that the Super 14 was never made to benefit South African teams and the few times the African teams make it into the playoffs they inevitably have to fly over to contest them and have always come back home beaten with their tail between their legs. The players have then had to go into the Tri-nations feeling they are inferior to the All Blacks due to Super 14 results. Last year however we saw how valuable home playoffs are and we tasted the glory of Super 14 success and this teed the Boks up for a World Cup win. So what has this to do with the Sharks first five games? Well I thought the answer was obvious.
In the first five games the Sharks have played ugly ten man rugby and have ground out wins, leaving themselves too much to do at the end to secure the all valuable bonus point. These bonus points are crucial to the Sharks success as a home final is what is needed to give Dick Muir the send off he deserves for turning the Sharks around, without them we are giving the Crusaders the chance to send off their amazing Robbie Deans in style. So in essence this Super 14 is turning into the closing ceremony for the two new age coaches, it should be known as the Dick and Deans show.
After five games the Sharks have a total of 21 points with the mighty Crusaders on 24. This simply put means when the Sharks play them on May the 2nd, a Sharks victory would tie the teams with the Crusaders enjoying a healthy points difference in top spot. And this situation could have been so different if only the backline had pulled their socks up. Two players in particular seem to have a World Cup hangover and only in the last game are there signs of them sobering up. It is a huge burden for the two youngsters to take, but JP and Frans need to man up and turn themselves from just heroes to legends. JP has not shown his talent that made him the top try scorer of 2007, and has looked like a passenger in each game. People may argue he never got ball from his backline, but the same can be said about Stefan and he has found ball to play with. So it is a simple case of JP not looking for work and letting everyone else carry him.
Frans. Now here is the player that has created the most debate amongst fans. He is the golden child of South African rugby, and every women and the odd guy fantasize about his greatness. But he hasn’t yet performed (as can be seen by his inability to kick the drop goals he once was the master of and his being dropped from long range place kicking) causing great concern and creating debate about all possible reasons for his lack lustre performances. The reasons are simple, he has yet to enter 2008. 2007 was such a big year for him he expected to have things his own way, and at the Sharks team success overshadows player success. During pre-season, reports were he wanted the flyhalf or first centre positions, while ‘experts’ have said his rightful place for the Sharks and the Boks is full back. Well we have no idea how he would handle the inside centre role as no-one in their right minds would drop the brilliant Barritt (who has defended like a Trojan). He has played at flyhalf twice and both times failed dismally and in his last appearance there he kicked two tries away. His fullback performance has been solid, but when compared to the cool head of Stefan, Steyn looks average. People are now even suggesting he should be dropped to get his mind right, but this may just break the player’s spirit. All we can hope is he embraces fullback and brings back the skill that has made him the poster boy.
Other areas of concern are scrumhalf and flyhalf. Ruan battled at scrumhalf in the initial games where the ELV’s found his distribution speed wanting. Injury gave Rory a start and he has proven to be a success, but he has been a little selfish of late and has not given the backline enough ball to attack with. Instead he has kicked good ball away or tried to take on the opposition flankers himself with no success. To see where we can improve we need to look at our competition, and the Crusaders’ Ellis has shown the value of getting quick ball to the flyhalf. Michalak has battled to impress in his appearances at 10 and although he hasn’t been an Achilles heal, he hasn’t created the opportunities everyone expected him to. He has shown though that in the latter stages of the game he does show more flair, which begs the question should he be the starter. France used him successfully as a super-sub and it is looking like this could actually be his glory role. Leaving a burning question, who at flyhalf? The very same question Bok selectors are asking. Ruan has the ability and boot to be a great fly half and he is our answer, but he needs to want to play there and rumours are he doesn’t want to play fly half.
All these problems said, the Sharks can fix them as they are not serious enough to derail a so far successful campaign, but if they are ignored it could turn a possible Super 14 crown into yet another Choker medal the Sharks are getting renowned for winning. This article is about the problems with the Sharks, but as I have already mentioned this article compliments the Sharksrugby article. So if you want to feel good about the Sharks again read that.Tweet