The Sharks-Stormers game ended just as it was predicted it would, with the Sharks running out victors. Although the Stormers were the better team for large parts of the game, the Sharks’ higher fitness levels gave them the edge over their counterparts. Surprising as Rassie was bragging about the three extra weeks he had to prepare his team. Although the victory was the perfect start to the Sharks’ season, some worrying signs are starting to appear.
With the departure of Dick Muir and the success of the Sharks in the Currie Cup, it was surprising to see the same errors creep into the team that hindered them last year. The first concern was the captaincy. With the number of “leaders” in the team, it was surprising to see no clear leadership. Johan Muller was disappointing in his leaderhip and it looked at times that the only person remaining calm was the shunned John Smit. Johan Muller was quick to complain about the Stormers illegal tactics, yet he was the culprit of a large number of the Sharks’ turnovers. Both he and Frans Steyn had the inability to stay on their feet at the breakdown and this lead to the Sharks being on the back foot for most the first half. As John Plumtree selected Johan over Smit as captain, he needs to sit down with Johan and sort out his poor leadership. How can the team be expected to respect a Captain when he is the reason for them losing hard earned ball?
The next area of concern was the number of missed tackles. During last year’s Super 14 the Sharks made the exact same errors as they are a year later. They are rightfully chasing the limitless up and unders being delivered from Stefan, but no-one is successfully stopping the catcher. Instead they are all running past him and leaving a now reduced line of defence to cover for their mistakes. Either they need to send one player up to try and regain the ball or they must stagger the guys that are chasing. That way allowing the second chaser the chance at bringing the player down, when the first chaser has missed. But the current wall of three is not working as Tonderai waltzed right past them. Or something quite revolutionary, tell Stefan to halve the amount of balls he is kicking away.
On the subject of Stefan, lets look at his short coming. He is excellent when it comes to covering the rear, but he is proving to be a liabilty on attack. Whenever he makes a break he has a tendency of wasting the try potential by either not passing to a faster player and getting caught with it, or losing the ball with a pointless kick. He shouldn’t be replaced in the team, but someone needs to teach the old dog new tricks if he has any ambitions of wearing a Bok Jersey.
Frans Steyn is the new inside centre and he is set to be there for the full season. Although their are millions of views on this, the problem isn’t going away. With Frans starting, their is no point in putting Adi on the field until things open up. Adi doesn’t get the ball he needs from Frans so is rendered useless. If Frans is instructed to play a tight gameplan by the coaches, why is Adi put on the field as a defender when they have better defenders on the bench? They need to have the right players on the field for the game plans chosen. When an expansive, high speed game is needed, then Keegan and Adi need to be on the field, if a tight physical game is required then Jacques and Riaan should be on the park. It is a simple case of horses for courses.
With the Lions up this weekend, the Sharks front row needs to be looked at. The Lions pushed the Cheetahs forward pack easily on Friday, yet our guys battled against a supposed inferior forward pack. Maybe there is some truth to Rassie’s utterances this week when he said the Sharks forwards are hiding injuries. If this is the case the Sharks need to re-look at their gameplan. And while on the topic of the front row, the Du Plessis’ need to be told to calm down. In the last six months they have started to get a little dirty. The Sharks don’t need them (or any other players) to lose them a vital game through pointless ill-discipline.
The final concern is the Sharks refusal to go for the throat when they are ahead. On Saturday the Sharks sat back with 20 minutes on the clock instead of having a go for the bonus point. It would be thought that after last years failure to get bonus points had cost the team a valuable home final, they would have learnt their mistake.
This article is not here to bring down the team, it is rather here to remind the players that they have weaknesses and if some people are noticing them, you can be sure the opposition coaches have it penned in their note books. Although the Sharks have only played one game and it was going to be scrappy, it is better to look at the weaknesses now than complain about them when they’ve thrown the Super 14 trophy away for the third year in a row. The Super 14 trophy needs to spend a year in the Sharks trophy cabinet, and this year is the best chance they have. So looking at obvious weaknesses with the aim to repair them can only help the team. Go Sharks, give the trophy a year long holiday in Durban, it just might want to stay.Tweet