It is absolutely vital that the Sharks pick up where they left off last week and carry the momentum from their best performance of the season into Saturday’s play-off game.
I find it worrying that there’s so much talk of tinkering with combinations and changing of game plans. In being forced to play expansive, attacking rugby, the Sharks have produced their two best showings against the Cheetahs and the Chiefs. More importantly, these tactics have yielded their two highest margins of victory this year. They have finally settled on a backline that seems to be operating with fluidity and rhythm. Most importantly, to my mind, they are focusing on their own strengths, rather than constantly working up schemes to counter the opposition’s areas of supremacy.
This is why this absolute fascination with containing Wycliffe Palu concerns me. It seems as though we have completely forgotten about what it is that makes us good, but are fixated on the one guy that did damage against us last time. Although it is undoubtedly wise to learn from your mistakes, I honestly don’t believe that we need different personnel out on the Park this weekend than the ones who have done such an admirable job in beating the Chiefs.
The last time we played the Tahs, we had Muller out through injury and Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes playing together at flank. Our pack, with Muller and Sykes re-united and Venter on the flank for Daniel is already immeasurably stronger and provided we show the same urgency and commitment at the breakdowns that we have in every game subsequent to the Sydney debacle, we need not fret unduly over ball security. We have proven that we have the pack to stand up to any other in this competition. The Tahs caught us at half-strength and off our guard. It was a once-off and our forwards will not be bested again. In short, I don’t believe we need to take risks with Epi Taione in this game! He is not as good as Palu is at what Palu does. If he was, he’d be playing for a New Zealand team. In Venter and Deysel we have guys that offer a different dynamic and we should use that.
Our backline played with patience and poise against the Chiefs, yet were nonetheless very dangerous. A solid showing up-front will provide them with the tools they need to unlock an inexperienced Tahs midfield. What we do not need to do is rush glory-boy Steyn back in at all costs. More crucially, we do not need to revert to the “kick-at-all-costs” mindset that gifted the Waratahs victory last time. I would be a lot happier if we’d brought the dependable Andries Strauss along to deputise for Frans, who is apparently still very doubtful.
Be warned, Sharks. This game is ours to lose, but if we lose it in our heads before we even go out there, or lose it through poor team selection or stupid tactics, we will have only ourselves to blame.
Go get em, boys. Sharks Forever!Tweet