There is a real change in the Super 14 this year, and I like it.
If you are looking for the biggest pessimist when it comes to SA Rugby, look no further than yours truly!
Maybe years of commentating on the same old crap has attributed to my state of mind in SA Rugby but in my defense, we really did follow exactly the same patterns specifically when it came to competing in the Super rugby competition.
This year however there is a change, and in specifically in one team, the Sharks.
I wrote before the season started that the Sharks season will be defined by 3 major points; Plum’s ability as a Super rugby head coach in his rookie season, the selection of Muller ahead of John Smit as captain, and the new combinations specifically those of 9, 10, 12 and 13.
Although not completely convinced (it is still early days) in one or two departments, the Sharks have definitely made me think there may be a case of real optimism for the Super 14 for the first time ever…
As Plumtree mentioned, this team is far from the finished product but in some ways, that is quite scary!
Questions also still hangs over the depth in crucial positions like 10 and 12 but one cannot base an opinion on a team on what ‘might’ happen or if someone does get injured.
What I find most impressive of the Sharks is not so much on an individual basis or specific players, it is the whole aura this team carries.
There is a calmness and maturity in this team I have never witnesses with South African rugby sides.
It seems that this team knows what is expected of them, but more importantly, they seem to know and understand how to get the job done.
I have seen this before in one other team in recent years gone by – the Crusaders.
At times the Saders were not the best team on the park, and even the competition, but they were unflappable in their belief in each other and their structures which always gave them the edge even before kick-off.
I have always maintained that rugby is a very simple game, where there is not much difference between any team, coach or players at specific levels (such as the Super 14) and how they train, approach or play the game – the main difference is how they execute these simple things.
Paramount to executing anything successfully is in your approach, and one thing that is very obvious to me in the current Sharks team, as was the case with the Crusaders, is how calm they are.
This aspect of the Sharks game is most surprising to me, especially given how many youngsters they have in their team, and to show this level of maturity is something I did not expect.
One would usually associate this type of approach with a team or players that have loads of experience, but with the Sharks it happens across the board, even their youngsters.
As a coach you can teach players many things – guide them if they are inexperienced and give them your assurances and trust as a coach, but you have a better chance of whistling the tune of Waltzing Matilda out of your a-hole than trying to coach a player to remain calm in highly stressful situations.
So if you are looking for one thing in 2009 that is different than all the other years we played in this competition, then simply look to how calm the Sharks are in their approach and execution in their quest to win some silverware.
It is still a long way to go in this competition, but from experience I believe that even if you do lose player personnel along the way but you retain this type of approach, you will still be successful.
And this pessimist might just turn into an optimist for a change.Tweet