I’m going to try really hard not to get carried away here.
The Sharks were on an absolute hiding to nothing going into this weekend’s game, having lost so many key personnel. It was the withdrawal of backline general Brad Barritt on Thursday afternoon that did the real damage and I really hope that everyone will now realise exactly how crucial Bad Brad is the the Sharks’ campaign this year. For one thing, the backline defence is just a shambles when he isn’t there, but perhaps you can ascribe that to the fact that we were forced to play a combination that hadn’t trained together all week.
The result was atrocious for the Sharks, but no altogether unexpected. If we are to take some positives from the game (and there really aren’t many) then we can look at the Sharks’ total dominance in the scrum, as well as the staunch defence in the second half, which kept the Bulls tryless right up to the 38th (or was it the 58th?) minute of that period. The period of play leading up to Albert’s try was also pretty fun to watch. But that was it.
So, I’m going to give these guys the benefit of the doubt. It was a complete non-performance from a team perspective, but I thought there were some encouraging signs from an individual point of view. Certain players put their hands up in small ways (and other did not) and given that we now have the look of a team in a rebuilding phase (we would have to be, given the number of quality players unavailable) all that we can really hope for is to keep in touch with the other top sides until our stars return. It’s a pretty forlorn place to be, just a few weeks on from reaching the Super 14 semifinals. Abandon all hope, ye who support the Sharks.
So, onto our player ratings for this game. Fellow-contributor hellbent has given me his ratings as well, so I’ll indicate what he thought next to my rating. He was possibly a little harsher than I was!
Deon Carstens (6/10) – A busy game for the loosehead. Scrummed very well and was active in the loose. Showed a surprising turn of pace in making a try-saving tackle on JP “Tank” Joubert. Needs to improve his on-field communication and leadership, as he’s a senior player and needs to start helping out with the load on Muller’s shoulders. HB gave him 6/10.
Skipper Badenhorst (4/10) – Did well at scrumtime, but wasn’t great in the lineouts (he never is) and doesn’t really have the handling skills to live with the sort of high-pace offloading game the Sharks want to play. Offers less than Burden, other than in the scrums. (HB 4/10)
BJ Botha (8/10) – Superb in everything that a tighthead is meant to do. Killed Engels in the scrum and was busy as hell in the loose. BJ is a quiet guy by nature, but you feel he also needs to do more as a leader in the team. (HB 6.5/10)
Albert van den Berg (4/10) – Completely anonymous for 60 minutes, before popping up to score a try. Big Al is just not justifying his experience, for my money and as a starting option, his lack of a tight game remains a serious drawback. Never posed the sort of threat in the lineouts that his reputation suggests he should. (HB 4/10)
Johann Muller (5/10) – Johann is playing like a guy who’s heart just isn’t in it. I reckon his omission from the Bok group after a very good Super 14 has something to do with it. He is doing his job in the scrums and still hitting the rucks, but his lineout work is off and he is just not rallying the guys when the chips are down, the way a captain should. His hands have been atrocious of late. He clearly needs a rest, but with the squad depleted as it is, there’s just no way he can be left out. (HB 3/10)
Jacques Botes (5/10) – Another guy who is being played out of the game. He has also had too much rugby and playing in the same loose trio as Keegan Daniel completely nullifies his strengths. He continues to try hard, but he is best operating in a little bit of space, space which he is not getting now. He is not a basher, but is trying to play like one and is looking ineffective as a result. (HB 4/10)
Nic Strauss (5/10) – A promising début, but too much was expected of him. He was busy and aggressive and would do well at 7 if we had someone like Deysel available at 8. As is, it is a big ask to expect anyone other than a world-class number 7 to make up for the combined deficiencies of Botes and Daniel. Strauss showed promise, but he is not world-class. (HB 4/10)
Keegan Daniel (6/10) – Keegs is looking good at 8. He would look a lot better if he could play 8 behind a pack that’s moving forward, but that just isn’t happening at the moment. His discipline and concentration remain suspect at times and he looks inept when trying to bash it up. Played in tandem with two bigger loose forwards, he would do well. Always tries hard and his defence is exemplary. (HB 3 /10)
Scott Mathie (4/10) – Has played hardly any rugby in two seasons and it shows. Scott is the weakest of the four scrumhalf options we have and doesn’t really offer much of anything. He has no boot to speak of, doesn’t have the crispest pass and also lacks the pace of Kockott or Macleod on the break. (HB 5/10)
Monty Dumond (5/10) – Did reasonably well as a goal-kicker and distributor, but as backline general looked out of his depth. Needs to take some responsibility for the leaky midfield defence in the first half. A decent stopgap, but not the answer at this level. (HB 5/10)
11 Henno Mentz (2/10) – For a man of his experience to display such poor handling is just unacceptable at any level of the game. Henno, your time has come and gone and it’s time to let someone else make their mark on the position. (HB 2/10)
12 Andries Strauss (4/10) – Strauss is the sort of player that will look good when he has stars around him. He works incredibly hard and is a good distributor, but lacks the pace and flair to shine when all around him are playing badly. He is a better player than it would seem based on what he dished up on Saturday. (HB 4/10)
13 Waylon Murray (2/10) – Waylon has a problem in his head and he needs to get it fixed. He’s obviously suffering with self-doubt after the amazing season he had in 2007. He has been woeful all year and can no longer justify his position in even the most injury-ravaged of Sharks teams. Pretty sad, really. (HB 3/10)
14 Chris Jordaan (7/10) – Now that’s what I like! A youngster prepared to back himself and grab his chance with both hands. Jordaan was the only light in an otherwise dismal backline display. This man needs to be a fixture in the team going forward. I would give him Mentz’s spot and let him settle there. (HB 7/10)
15 Stefan Terblanche (4/10) – Tried a few things, but, like Metnz, one feels his time has passed. For all his experience, does nothing to give direction to an otherwise rudderless young back division. (HB 4/10)
The only replacements worth giving a rating at all were Macleod and Swanepoel, both of whom get 6/10. Macleod is a better prospect than Mathie as he has pace and vision. Swanepoel always looks exciting when he comes on and perhaps needs to be given a start.Tweet