Tournament favourites, The Sharks, might need some luck to make the semi-finals, writes CapeShark.
The Coastal Team who began the season with a bang, are in such poor form presently, they’re now in danger of missing the play-offs, something considered inconceivable three weeks ago.
It was obvious after the drubbing by the Cheetahs, incidentally the worst team in the competition, that the Sharks had gone completely off the boil. Against the Crusaders a week later, they were just plain woeful. A handling error count of over 20 is never going to win you a game, whether you’re a band of professionals or the under-13F team. The Sharks had numerous opportunities to score yet failed to overturn a 7 point deficit for the majority of the game, often spilling the pill within metres of the line.
Coach Plumtree has pointed to player fatigue, and seems to be holding out for the bye as his only salvation. But how can one honestly blame player fatigue when the other Super teams have to cope with exactly the same challenges, and in some cases have stepped up a gear?
It’s my considered opinion that for the umpteenth season, the coastal franchise finds itself without a flyhalf of any decent quality to galvanise the team and give them go-forward. Ruan Pienaar showed glimpses of promise until his injury, but the failure to find adequate depth in this crucial position has reduced the Sharks to relying on a player who quite evidently has a not a clue about the basics of flyhalf play. Frans Steyn has shown no aptitude in the slightest for this position. Instead of creating opportunities for the players around him, he somehow naively believes that he alone will break the defences. Instead of attacking the advantage line directly and creating forward momentum, his sideways running reduces the players around him to a standstill, as they wait (mostly in vain) for an offload to run onto. How Plumtree can still persist with someone who couldn’t run straight if he was being chased down a tunnel by a train, is simply mystifying.
Add to that his poor defensive alignment and slippery hands, and you have a recipe for implosion on your hands. What Plumtree should do now to avoid any further nightmares is play Adrian Jacobs
at flyhalf because it seems like half the time on the field he plays there anyway. At least Jacobs is creative, and while it’s not a perfect solution, it could at least ignite the Sharks into being a little more proactive instead of relying on opposition mistakes to counter-attack from.
I’ve said it before, but I honestly think we should target Peter Grant, who does the basics well, and groom him for the flyhalf berth. The guy is wasting his time with the severely impotent Stormers.
He attacks the line well, is a fearless defender, passes well, heck it’ll be a revelation!
Grant is said to be considering his options, would it hurt the Sharks Union to at least put in an offer?
But back to Saturday’s game, I was mystified as to why Riaan Swanepoel, one of the few players who committed himself to catching a ball and running straight, was hauled off for Waylon Murray who hasn’t seen action for nearly five months! Like Steyn, Murray is also an aficionado of the sideways dancer technique, end result: even less forward momentum. Rory, the ‘Jack Russell’ Kockett seems to have perfected the art of isolating himself and relinquishing ball in the tackle, so while it all looks nifty, his line-breaks are actually placing the entire team under more pressure. Poor Odwa Ndungane! I feel for the guy, he runs into space so well, ready for that final pass, and he got shockers all night long. He’s one of South Africa’s hardest working wings and one of the few players to enjoy a consistently good season. One of the few plusses to take out of the game, was the magnificent Beast who looked strong and dangerous whenever he had the ball. But unless his team-mates can protect the ball at the breakdown something they have lost collective ability to do these days, it’s all a little predictable isn’t it.
Well, here’s hoping the Sharks actually pull a rabbit out of the hat, or their heads from their asses, whatever analogy works best, and start putting some points on paper. At one stage the tournament was theirs to lose, if they don’t start playing to their potential, they’ll go one worse and finish mid-table. Not a comforting thought.Tweet