Well, can’t say I was particularly impressed with the performance dished up by the Sharks this weekend – particularly in the first half. You’ve got to admire the result though. Hell, coming back from that disastrous performance against the Reds to ultimately stuff the Force, despite never getting out of second gear is pretty impressive in my book.
Looking back, there must have been a pretty clear plan going into this game. The Sharks were only ever intending to play one half of rugby and as usual, they chose the second half. In the first, they showed an alarming lack of direction, plan and energy and I for one was pretty relieved that we managed to turn 3-all. If the Force had been a halfway decent team, they would have punished us for our aimlessness and laissez-faire. That said, one never really got the feeling that the Sharks were panicked during the first half or that the game was slipping out of control for them. They weren’t trying particularly hard to win, but they weren’t going to lie down and be beaten either.
The second half was a different story and to my mind, there was one clear factor that made the difference; the Sharks moved from “passive defence” to “active”; that is to say, they increased the intensity at the tackle point to shift the momentum in their favour. Rugby is a game that can only be played going forward and the tackle (quite obviously) is the point at which momentum can most easily be altered. A combination of rush defence and gang tackling saw the Sharks force two good turnovers deep in their own half, both of which resulted in long range tries against a retreating (and tiring) opposition. The stuttering Sharks attacking axis, blunted beyond hope of utility by the combination of the equally selfish Rory Kockott and Francois Steyn didn’t really need to fire after that, as they’d broken the back (and the spirit) of the opposition. Kockott’s try was just gravy and again demonstrated how important it is for a team to have the forward momentum at the breakdown.
I’m being pretty hard on Rory and Fransie here… in fact, I thought the latter had a superb all-round game and particularly if you consider how badly he played last week, Frans showed that he has a HUGE pair. To shake off that sort of criticism, put the jersey back on and come out and play so well shows tremendous character and for that I must salute him. It doesn’t change the fact, though, that the current Sharks halfback pairing don’t do nearly enough to create opportunities for those around them. It’s a pretty shocking indictment that, over the 65-odd minutes that he played, I don’t believe Riaan Swanepoel can have touched the ball more than twice. It’s one thing to have backs that can be dangerous from broken play, but it would be sweet if, just occasionally, we could create opportunities for them off our own ball…
Let’s not be negative, though. Hell, the Sharks are in second place AFTER coming home from tour and equalled the Bulls (and Stormers) record of three wins. with another seven games to go, six of them at home, this thing is now ours to lose. Come on, Sharks, let’s take it to the next level.
BTW – can I give Luzuko Vulindlu an honourable mention? Shucks, but that kid is something else. I reckon in 15 minutes on the field, he must easily have made 10 tackles. One to watch for the future, that’s for sure.Tweet