There’s bad news for the other guys out there: the Sharks are already looking the best bet to win the Currie Cup, despite not playing anywhere near potential at the moment.
The Sharks, in fact, were pretty woeful for large periods of the game against the Lions and one could argue that with 25 minute still to play, it was really anybody’s game on Saturday. Enter Messrs Kankowski and Pietersen with some superb pieces of individual play (oh yeah, and Deysel did something pretty nifty as well) and it was all over, red rover. Sharks win by 14, with an unexpected bonus point to boot.
But what of the errors? The woeful ball retention at times and the frankly crazy passes being flung all over the field. What of the consummate ease with which both Heinke van der Merwe and newbie Ross Geldenhuys bested our first-choice props? What of the at-times woeful defence that allowed the lions to score three ultimately very simple tries?
Fact is, we as Sharks fans need to be mindful of the fact that, even though our team romped to a seemingly comprehensive victory this weekend, there are some definite areas in which much improvement is needed. Hopefully this weekend’s cake walk against Griquas in Durban will provide an opportunity to fine tune and try to put right the things we did wrong against the Lions.
There’s not a huge amount that can, or needs to, be done in the front row. Heinke van der Merwe is a freakishly strong scrummager and there are very few tightheads outside of BJ Botha who have shown the ability to hold him. Let’s just hope that Saturday’s working over will have given Doc Jannie a timely reminder that he needs to stay sharp and ensure he’s on top of his game in the weeks that follow. Beast seemed to really struggle against Geldenhuys as well, but I guess we can probably write that off as something that the young prop will learn from. We have the pecking order right at this stage and have two very good props waiting in the wings should things really go pear-shaped at srum-time over the next 3 weeks.
The pack as a whole is doing a far better job when it comes to ball retention – our biggest problem right now is our centres and their frankly awful contact technique. Frans Steyn is slightly more guilty than Adi Jacobs, but neither player emerged with any sort of credit after turning over numerous balls to the Lions. Frans needs to have the riot act read to him in no uncertain terms, though. After a very good match against the Cheetahs, one which has now seen him take regular possession of the number 12 jersey, he has taken huge steps backwards in the last two weeks. Once again, he is all arrogance and bluster, with very little constructive play to back it up. He does put in some big tackles, I’ll give him that and his drop attempt was so nearly there this week. His reluctance to pass, coupled with some frankly atrocious long passes which seldom find their intended target, stifles so much good attacking ball for the Sharks line, though. It’s frankly ludicrous the extent to which Adi Jacobs was taken completely out of the game by Steyn’s woeful decision-making. I’d be quite shocked if there was one single pass from 12 to 13 all game long.
But it wasn’t just the centres who were poor. In fact, more than half of the team put in sub-standard performances on the day, even the great Kanko looking decidedly off-the-boil apart from the two touches that won us the game. Jean Deysel suffered from a bad case of the dropsies in the first half and conceded a pair of really silly penalties. Stefan Terblanche missed a regulation tackle on Nontshinga leading to the Lions’ opening try. Fred Michalak seemed to be entirely on his own planet at times and only rarely managed to get onto the same wavelength as his teammates. Odwa Ndungane and Jacques Botes were both virtually anonymous. Bismarck du Plessis’s lineout woes continued.
The message is a clear one. Sharks – there is no room for complacency. Sure, you ultimately won comfortably, but you need to go back and fix those areas that are not working so well right now. Do that and you’ll be unstoppable.
And as for the others… the Sharks only need to win three more games, in Durban and the Currie Cup is ours. We’ve beaten all of you without really playing well yet and we’re only going to get better. We have a better 22 than any other side in the competition and a coaching team with a good understanding and plan for how we’re going to win this thing. Be afraid, because the Sharks are going all the way this year!Tweet