Apparently Todd Blackadder reckons that his team will target the Sharks’ supposedly soft midfield this weekend, now that the Cheetahs have shown that that’s the way to win. Is the new Saders coach really stupid enough to reveal his gameplan in the media? Or is this just an elaborate ruse to fox Plumtree and his merry men?
Right now, if I were looking at weaknesses in the Sharks team, I’d target the breakdown, the lineouts, the scrums… ok, hell – the forwards in general. Maybe that’s not really a fair assessment, though, since the Sharks surely cannot be as bad from front to back as they were last week. I guess if they are, then this is a meaningless discussion, since the Crusaders will walk it…
Ok, so then what exactly is it that the Cheetahs did so well? Did they manage to expose some sort of systematic weakness in the Sharks’ midfield defence? I don’t really think they did. As far as I can recall, what they did, over and over, to pretty devastating effect, was set up a two man “mini-maul” two passes out and use that as a way to get across the advantage line while being pretty certain to retain the ball. It’s a pretty nifty trick, since you’re forcing a defender to effectively tackle two men at once. Not only does the momentum at the point of tackle always go your way, you have an automatic fetcher at the point of breakdown, hopefully on his feet and able to secure a further quick phase.
It’s legal, but I’m not really convinced it should be. That’s perhaps a topic for another day, though.
If anything, the Sharks midfield defence stood up pretty well considering what they were up against; I feel if anything, the defence out wide was found napping on at least three occasions.
The real issue – and the real point of weakness that the Crusaders are likely to attack was the breakdown itself. The Sharks lacked commitment, bulk, technique and nous in the forward exchanges and the Cheetahs, through a ridiculously plentiful supply of safe ruck ball, were able to set up phase after quick phase against a tiring and retreating backline defence. The Sharks insistence on gifting possession back to the hosts through a combination of aimless kicking and woeful set-piece execution provided all the fuel that the Cheetahs’ gameplan required.
Silly, really. You can’t attack off the back foot. You can’t attack without the ball. You can’t win the game simply by tackling, because sooner or later you’re going to let one slip. If you’re going to turn defence into attack, you need to start by shifting the momentum at the point of tackle. The Sharks were completely unable to do that all game and also failed to spark anything whatsoever on the few occasions that they actually won something resembling front-foot ball.
So, to get back to the point of this ramble, I don’t for a second believe that Todd Blackadder views the midfield as the key to victory, particularly given the fact that he has lost his main attacking threat in the centres, Afro-king Casey Laulala. No – Big Todd knows that Richie McCaw has a job to do starving the Sharks of ball at the breakdown. That is what his plan will revolve around – that is what the Sharks will need to counter.Tweet