Saturday’s performance was just plain not good enough for a team as brimming with talent as the Sharks. It was, quite frankly, an embarrassing shambles and it’s time for our galaxy of stars to come down to earth a little.
To my mind, the Sharks have only played about an hour and a half of really good rugby so far this year. The last ten minutes against the Bulls was superb (although the opposition was, admittedly, a man down) while the first halves in both the Blues and Brumbies games showed all-too-brief glimpses of what this team is capable of. For the rest of yet another failed campaign (and don’t kid yourselves that this one isn’t a failure yet) the Sharks have stumbled from scrappy win to fortunate draw to narrow loss to total annihilation and for the most part have played like a team of over-hyped glory boys banking on reputation rather than form.
Ryan Kankowsi has been the only consistent performer. He has been, quite literally, the only guy in the whole team who has played at or above his potential in every outing to date. Keegan Daniel, Bismarck du Plessis, Johann Muller, Rory Kockott and Stefan Terblanche have each played a few decent innings, while Jacques Botes, Brad Barritt, Beast Mtawarira and Odwa Ndungane have tried throughout. It’s results that count, though and for whatever reason, the big names, the match winners, the strike runners are just not pulling their weight.
Top of the pile is Frans Steyn. You can blame it on the coach’s seeming inability to find a position for him, but Frans has looked pretty ordinary in all of the ones he’s tried, including his favourite, inside centre, where he played on Saturday. He may be a prodigy, he may be a World Cup winner, but right now, he’s about as useful to the Sharks as an igloo in the Sahara. He is arrogant, petulant and brash. He makes mistakes and he doesn’t learn from them. He plays as an individual and doesn’t trust his teammates. He is, right now, a liability.
At least Frans is trying things, though. Waylon Murray and JP Pietersen are playing like they are scared! They don’t chase kicks, they don’t compete for the high ball and most damningly, they don’t back themselves with ball in hand. In fact, Adi Jacobs seems to be the only Sharks back who’s ever willing to just have a go with ball in hand. The curse of pathetic kicking seems to have afflicted each one in turn. Latest to catch the bug is the usually reliable Stefan Terblanche, who is quite honestly just going to pieces at the moment.
Ruan Pienaar is another who’s meant to be a real ball-playing genius, yet I wonder at what stage we are going to start reaping the rewards. He has been around for almost 4 years now and I can count his really good performances on one hand. The latest suggestion is that he’s unhappy because he was dropped in favour of Kockott, which I consider pretty bloody rich, considering how little Pienaar is actually contributing at the moment.
Thing are bad right now, guys, that’s for sure. We are heading into a do-or-die encounter with the Crusaders without a flyhalf and carrying a team, 75% of whom, seemingly, can’t be bothered to actually go out and put in a decent performance. We have one of the most highly rated packs in the competition, yet we can’t secure ball at the breakdown. We have a backline brimming with internationals, yet we have scored less that two tries per game on average. Most pertinently, we face the fight of our lives now to ensure a semi-final at all, given that right now the Crusaders WILL stuff us and the Cheetahs and Chiefs may well do the same.
We will, barring a major turnaround in fortunes, find ourselves in 6th position after next weekend. Who is going to stand up and save us from the ignominy of going from 1st to 6th in a single season? Not the ragtag bunch that conceded four tries to the Waratahs in 18 minutes of play, that’s for sure. Right now, we need to see the Sharks team that dug deep to pull off unlikely wins against the Blues and the Bulls. Where are those guys hiding and how do we get them back? Perhaps the decision not to take their mental coach on tour with them wasn’t the smartest one the Sharks management has made this season…Tweet