The Sharks somehow managed to do the impossible. They actually played worse this week than they did in the opening round.
For 70 minutes they battled to stay in a game that they should have won at a canter. Again, the culprits were shoddy handling, woeful commitment at the breakdown and just plain inability to master the basics of the game. Boland, in contrast, thought man-for-man nowhere near as skillful as the Sharks, were accurate in (virtually) everything that they did. They can possibly feel aggrieved at the strange refereeing decisions which ultimately took them out of the game.
I’m not going to lay into individuals as much as I did last week. Let’s just say that the only Sharks players I thought actually enhanced their reputations were Keegan Daniel, Charl Macleod and Monty Dumond. The latter simply HAS to start at fullback against the Bulls, with Brad Barritt back at flyhalf. Andy Borgen’s inexperience is not what you want behind a pack that seemingly can’t be bothered to compete at the breakdowns.
The pack as a whole was bad. The only area where we could lay any claim to dominance was the scrum. The lineouts were better and I felt that Burden actually did quite well, but the props and locks collectively had the sort of game they’d rather forget. I also don’t buy that Botes deserved man-of-the-match. To me, Daniel was the stand out forward, with the others lucky to be considered average. The sooner we realise that Steven Sykes and Niko Blignaut are locks, and not loose forwards, the better. It’s one thing to have little quick guys in your loose trio if you have a tight five that’s uber-grunty and a quick big guy to complement them in the back row. Three locks in tandem ain’t gonna work: all you end up with is your two little guys trying to hold off the entire opposition pack at each breakdown, while the slow heavies waddle their way over there.
Losing Deysel may well turn out to be the thing that undoes us in this campaign. Surely, now, the time has come to either buy someone, or give one of the youngsters a chance?
It’s tough to criticise the backs when they’re always getting bad ball, but geez – some of those guys should learn how to throw a decent pass. Lwazi Mvovo showed enough chutzpah to suggest that he deserves another run, but I am rapidly losing patience with “Old Stef” at the back. He has no appreciation whatsoever for when to pass, no clue who he should be passing to and on the rare occasions that he gets past the first two steps, he then seemingly doesn’t know how to execute said pass. The pace injection from the back is sorely needed when you have an axis comprising the slow Barritt and even slower Strauss. The problem is, Terreblanche, Mentz and Mvovo don’t play as a unit in the back three. In fact, we can add Murray to that equation. All four seem hell-bent on running as hard and fast as they can, smack into the oncoming defenders, only to look on in bewilderment when they are penalised for holding on. The thought of offloading, running into support or, God forbid, actually trying to run past a man instead of through him, never seems to occur.
It’s not good enough and only a fool would rate our chances of coming within ten points of the Bulls at Loftus this weekend. The Sharks look like a dumb team playing dumb rugby and getting by on dumb luck. Unless they find a way to change that around, rapidly, they are not going to find themselves in contention in two months’ time, regardless of their current log standing.
Possibly the most concerning sign of all, though, was that the team clearly considered Friday night’s “performance” worthy of a lap of honour around ABSA Stadium. A more damning indictment on the acceptance of mediocrity there cannot be.Tweet