The Sharks must simply stop thinking they are good enough, and know they are good enough.
I just got back from holiday, all refreshed and pumped for action and then I was tasked to assess the Sharks performance so far in the competition – specifically the last couple of weeks.
When Rob asked me to give my thoughts on the Sharks I reckoned it would be quite easy as I have done this after mostly every game, but I know have the added problem of having to share thoughts with a bunch of very emotional Sharks supporters.
I wrote a piece when the Sharks were on tour where I mentioned that this team has something special. A Crusaders-like feel about them where they are maturing into a champion team by simply just doing the basics right, and not panicking.
Most will think that following the last two weeks results I would change my view, but I still stick by what I said.
The situation the Sharks find themselves in currently is quite strange and a bit difficult to explain, but I will try.
In rugby, as with most things in life, people usually plan or follow a plan to become successful, or reach a goal. This is done by using various proven and successful methods to achieve success like the SWOT analysis model, Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs etc.
What effectively happens is that an individual or individuals will study the environment they find themselves in, have a look at where they currently are, what they want to achieve, what resources they have available to them, and devise a timeframe in which they want to achieve specific goals and ultimately, the grand goal.
This is a periodic and systematic approach, in which deliverables are measurable and serve to indicate how successful the individuals are in achieving their ultimate goal.
Initially, following this model or any model is quite easy, because there is usually quite a gap between where you are, and where you want to be, but as you get closer to your goal, the challenges become tougher because where once you were kilometres away from one objective to the next where success is easily measurable and results more frequent, it has now become a game of inches as you look to reach the pinnacle.
Again think of Maslow’s hierarchal model. It is in the shape of a pyramid, where at the base, it is quite wide but as you move to ultimate realisation (the top of the pyramid) the space becomes very limited or small, where micro changes have macro effects.
Now I am not here to discuss Maslow’s theory, nor is it applicable to the letter in this instance, but the point is quite simple; Once you reach the top of the pyramid as a team, or are close to reaching it as the Sharks are, identifying and/or applying changes to ultimately win the big prize becomes more difficult because the problems are micro problems (very little or small changes that need to be done – fine tuning) but the effects of not getting it done, can become macro problems, like not reaching the finals or winning the Super 14 trophy.
Here is a more practical example.
It would be much easier for the best coach in the world to achieve results in the Lions rugby team than what it would be with the Sharks, simply because the gap between where they currently are, to where they want to be is so much wider, hence success is often, if not always seen as relative to quantity (how much success you achieve or you can count the progressive steps) and not quality.
Operating or coaching in a dynamic and ever-changing environment like rugby is one of the most exciting, and most difficult things to do.
The Sharks are getting micro decisions wrong at the moment, both from a team environment like selections (positional and leadership) and from an individual point of view (individual performances from players).
Highlighting my specific beliefs of what they are getting wrong will simply be repeating what I said before the season started, apart from the surprise loss of form of some players like Kockott which I did not see coming. Of course injuries also play a part but a seasoned coach and management team should have covered for that eventuality as it is a reality in a sport like rugby – and as I mentioned pre-season, Plumtree is in his rookie season but he will learn.
The Sharks are a class team, and when you want to analyse the game of rugby they arguably edge most teams in most departments in just about every aspect of the game. They are just getting a couple of small things wrong at the moment.
The only question that remains now is whether they will be able to identify and address it in time to still have a shot at Super 14 glory, the ultimate prize?
Ironically enough, I believe it is the last block of Maslow’s theory that needs to be achieved; ‘Self Actualisation’ – and I believe they can.
This drive is not present in all, but when the four lower ranking needs have been met, some develop a particular calling. “A musician must make music, the artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. What a man can be, he must be.” Self-actualised people have a mission bigger than themselves. Many leaders demonstrate this strong, powerful and sometimes dangerous force.