You’ll forgive me, I’m sure, if I don’t let the obvious weakness of the opposition detract from my enjoyment of a fine Sharks performance on Friday night. After all, let’s not forget how many pundits, this one included, had serious reservations going into this game about the Sharks’ ability to record any sort of win over Boland whatsoever. That Province game hurt, all right and this one was just what we needed to get back on track.
Now, to me, this performance had it all – pretty much everything I’ve come to expect and respect about Sharks rugby at its best. Sure there were periods of diabolical decision-making and aimless play, but we’ve sort of come to expect that from a team that somehow, even when they’re really, really good, has never quite managed to put together that truly complete performance. I’m choosing to take the positives, though and there were man of these, from some strong forward play to some lovely running amongst the backs.
Stefan Terblanche’s performance reminded me so much of Hugh Reece-Edwards in his heyday – confident, assured and always in control. The fullback ever-present, ever in position and willing to hoof the ball a mile or run it back as the situation demanded. As a captain, he looked every bit the part and showed the benefit of the collected wisdom accumulated over a professional playing career spanning more than decade. Above all, Old Stef showed that attack is a state of mind and that the shackles he wore during the Super 14 were dictated by the game plan, rather than the player’s own lack of vision.
Craig Burden’s pair of tries demonstrated the utter dichotomy that he represents; a hooker just as comfortable scoring off the back of a driving maul as he is finishing off a sweeping backline move with a dive in the corner. The kid still struggles here and there (with his lineouts, in particular), but the particular breed of dynamism that he brings to the pack and the team as a whole is, to my mind, irreplaceable. He had a truly superb evening and was deservedly named man of the match. Keegan Daniel was not far behind and the way in which he plays at eight reminds me of yet another Natal stalwart’s early Nineties style. I’m referring, of course, to none other than Gary Teichmann.
Guy Cronjé’s cheeky flip to a barging Riaan Swanepoel, within the opening minute, again brought to mind the combination of guile and brute force that Butch James and Trevor Halstead brought to the party in the 2001 season. Both youngsters had memorable evenings, both on attack and defence. Swannie’s work-rate truly is phenomenal and he has to be one of the deadliest defenders at inside centre currently in the South African game. Watch this kid – he’s going to be a Springbok. For Cronjé, this performance alone may not have completely removed the question mark next to his name, but would certainly have had John Plumtree reaching contemplatively for the eraser.
Although the whole team really did superbly, the one guy I need to single out for particular praise is left wing Lwazi Mvovo. He is fast and he is keen and it was a real shame that he didn’t cross the chalk himself at any stage, because his superb work rate, both with and without ball in hand, would have made a try on the night richly-deserved. He will score plenty this season, mark my words.
It wasn’t all brilliant, though. Pat Cilliers had a pretty mixed bag sort of performance at scrum time and although his opposite number was often guilty of sloppy binding – which the ref didn’t pick up on as often as he should have – the inability of the scrum to get a good right shoulder was probably indicative of a tight five still getting to know one another. Cilliers will need to work on a few things, though, because Janro van Niekerk is by no means the strongest loosehead he’s likely to encounter this year.
But let’s not dwell on that just yet, as I’m sure we’ll do plenty of scrum-related analysis in the coming week as we look to the Bulls game on Friday night. A closing thought – what would a Sharks game be without the obligatory Albert van den Berg 80m intercept try? It’s a sight we haven’t seen in some time and it certainly was a treat that I’d like to have lots more of!
Well done, Sharks, but this was only the beginning. Keep going like this, though and the good old days may just be the good current days sooner than we think.Tweet