Watching the Sharks play was as confusing as it was exciting. How could a backline that was so average for 12 games suddenly turn into the well-oiled machine we saw last night?
Looking at the players performances there was a slight improvement, but nothing major to create such a vast difference in performance. Rory Kockott was as selfish as always and his game wasn’t much different from previous games. He did find some beautiful gaps though, but these were more Donald’s positioning than Rory’s brilliance.
Ruan is improving game by game, and if he doesn’t realise that flyhalf could be his ticket into the Boks soon, he may not get the Bok jersey he deserves. Brad was once again solid on defence but he never sparked more than normal. He did set up some nice ball, but no more than previous games. Adi made some nice breaks, but his passing left a lot to be desired. His defence also gave Chiefs chances. Odwa was as steady as he has been all season, and also never did anything spectacularly different to create such a huge difference to the backline. Stefan had a great game, he kicked away the same amount of ball, but got better results due to better timing. So JP had to be the spark that created the turnaround in the backline. Yes he was better, but he is long way from his best and the improvement we saw would not have made the difference.
That leaves Murray and Strauss. Both were solid when they came on, but neither created anything more than the players they replaced. So why the difference?
My mind went wandering, wondering what was different in the backline to create such patience and effectiveness? Maybe it was something missing? But what? Frans Steyn was the only player that missed out for the first time. Then it hit me, it may just be him. He has not shown any patience this season. He has taken to many stupid decisions this season. He has kicked away too much ball this season. He has lost ball in the tackle area. And he has created tries for the opposition. I feel he may very well be the reason the backline has battled all season, but I am not going to blame it all on one guy, but I do feel his absence played a big part in the stability of the backline.
Whatever the difference it is a pity we have to go into the playoffs not knowing what the difference is. Whether it was Fran’s absence, a poor Chiefs backline, the Sharks backs being against the wall producing results or the combined improvement of the players, let us hope that the new improved backline keeps this level up for two more games. We want that trophy.Tweet