Tomorrow’s clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin represents the perfect opportunity for Sharks midfielder Brad Barritt to rediscover his attacking flair. A sub-standard performance in this department should see the youngster relieved of the inside centre jersey for the remaining fixtures on tour.
Bradley Michael Barritt burst on to the scene as a raw 20-year-old back in 2006. He came with an impeccable age-group pedigree and appeared the complete package, whether playing at flyhalf or inside centre, his preferred position. Barritt has always been a fearless defender; what is more impressive is his superb tackle technique, which often allows him to secure vital turnover ball. He has grown in stature to the extent that he now marshals the Sharks defensive line and is the lynch-pin around which the most effective defensive unit in this year’s Super 14 revolves.
On attack, though, it’s a different story. The Brad Barritt we used to know was a creative attacking force; a stepper of note and an accurate distributor. Strong in the tackle, he would make good use of the offload, generally after forcing the half gap. In the past, he has even used a deft chip through to unlock defenses. This season, we have seen nothing of the sort.
Now perhaps it has much to do with the paucity of front-foot ball that Barritt is getting at the moment. The Sharks’ gameplan thus far, mostly one enforced by adverse weather, has involved plenty of kicking from the halfbacks. That said, Barritt has done precious little with the ball he has received, opting for the crashball option more often than not. He is not beating defenders anymore and his usually crisp passing seems uncharacteristically wayward. In short, he is playing like a man in his shell and the team is suffering as a result.
Sharks captain Johann Muller has spoken of the side’s determination to play attacking rugby against the Highlanders. Brad Barritt will need to play his way into form this week and take full advantage of what should be a glut of good posession coming to him. In Frans Steyn and Waylon Murray, he has try-hungry battering rams outside him and they must be fed. Is Barritt the man to give the outside backs good ball, having created just that little bit of extra room that they need?
We will know after 80 minutes at the House of Pain.Tweet