The Sharks, despite being second on the Super 14 standings and averaging three tries a match, feel that their attacking play is the one area of their game that needs to improve.
Jan De koning writes for Rugby 365 that world Cup-winning Springbok flyer JP Pietersen, a member of the Sharks’ highly-rated strike force, shares the view of coach John Plumtree that they may be relying too much on defence to win games at the moment.
Pietersen, speaking to rugby365.com during the build-up to their Week Seven encounter with the Brumbies in Durban on Saturday, admitted that the focus has shifted from defence to attack this week.
“It could count against you later in the competition if you defend all the time,” Pietersen said, adding: “It is a lot more taxing to defend all the time.”
He said the Sharks will look to get their attacking game up to par against the Brumbies on Saturday.
“We do have the strike force, a great backline and some great players,” he said of a back division that includes a host of Springboks – Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Pietersen, Adi Jacobs, Francois Steyn and the injured Ruan Pienaar.
“The Sharks have always been known for their attacking rugby, so we have to get that attacking game going and use our strike force effectively,” he added.
Plumtree echoed similar sentiments.
“We’re certainly not happy with the way we are attacking at the moment,” the Sharks coach told rugby365.com.
“The nice thing is, if you [the opposition] analyse the Sharks’ game, you can’t see much, because we’re not doing much,” he quipped.
“We are certainly looking to improve our attack on the weekend.
“It is about just being a bit more clinical at the breakdown and the rucks. We just haven’t been accurate enough at the rucks and that’s why we haven’t been doing enough attacking.
“If they slow you down, you have to put more numbers to the rucks and that takes numbers out of your attacking line. We just have to get a bit more accurate in everything you do,” the Sharks coach added.
The Sharks have so far relied on their renowned counter-attacking to score tries, as they did in their 22-10 win over the Western Force last week.
But that is all set to change during the second half of the season, when they will play six of their remaining seven games at home – with their only remaining ‘away’ game against the lowly Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
“It is just awesome to be back home,” Pietersen said.
“When you win, a tour is always more enjoyable, but four weeks is long enough to be away from home,” he said of a four-match trip that saw them beat the Chiefs, Blues and Force, with a loss to the Reds sandwiched in between.
“We have laid a good foundation on the tour abroad and it is now in our hands to make use of the home run and push on from here.”
Pietersen said the Brumbies, despite their loss to the Lions last week, remain a very tough team to beat.
“They are very structured and they try to outsmart the opposition. They are a clinical team once they get into the strike zone [the opposition's 22-metre area] and they are very good at finishing opportunities they create.”
The Brumbies, who have beaten the Sharks sevens times in their 12 encounters to date, won on their last visit to Durban – a 21-10 victory in 2007.
Pietersen, following a tryless run in the 2008 Super 14, has this year again shown the qualities that made him a stand-out player at the 20-07 World Cup in France.
“Compared to my performances in last year’s Super 14, I am happy with my game this year.
“However, there’s a lot of room for improvement. I am looking to improve my game from week-to-week and I’m certainly looking to improve my workrate.”Tweet