After Saturday’s frankly disastrous showing against the Lions, Sharks fans now inevitably turn to the required permutations in order for the team to still top the log after the end of next week. My thinking is that any such talk is pointless, because if the Sharks continue to play like they did against the Lions, they will not win a semifinal against any of the other contenders – much less will they beat Griquas on Saturday.
There is only one positive to come out of Saturday’s match, from a Sharks perspective. They won a game that they probably didn’t deserve to. One could argue that, in the context of numerous Super 14 losses to weaker opposition, this, at least, represents some sort of progress. The Sharks quite clearly have a problem when it comes to playing so-called weaker opposition and the problem is in their heads. How long will it take before John Plumtree acknowledges this weakness and brings in a proper mental coach to address the failing? Can you imagine how much better the Sharks’ Super 14 would have turned out had they not lost to the Reds and the Cheetahs? Or how much better their Currie Cup play-off positioning would look had they beaten the Leopards by 70 points, rather than 14?
If there’s on thing that Plummo loves to do, it’s flog a dead horse. We’ve all known for two years now that playing Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes in tandem does not work, particularly if you have a third “looser” loose forward in the trio, a la Ryan Kankowski. We hear the same tired old excuses about Keegan’s superior pace and skill making up for his lack of physical presence but the sad reality is that without Jean Deysel and Johann Muller in the engine room, the Sharks get stuffed at the breakdowns. I have been banging on about the lack of depth at 7 for so long now that I’m starting to bore myself. Mike Rhodes has shown in the last two weeks that even if he isn’t the answer, he’s certainly a step in the right direction. Why was he not picked to start against the Lions?
Perhaps Deysel will be all better this weekend, though, allowing Plumtree to paper over the enormous crack until the next time the former picks up an injury. Then it will be panic stations again.
The other selection that continues to baffle me is that of Andries Strauss. There seems to have been some sort of bizarre media conspiracy this Currie Cup when it comes to this decidedly average centre – the number of times he has been selected in Rugby365′s Team of the Week, despite doing absolutely sod-all on the field, beggars belief. He won man of the match last week for scoring two tries against the Leopards and admittedly looked halfway reasonable on the day, although he too disappeared from sight, along with the rest of the team, in a woeful second half. Playing a good half of rugby against the Leopards does not suddenly turn him into the sort of player you select ahead of Adrian Jacobs, though.
They say Jacobs is a defensive liability, yet it was Strauss who showed Doppies la Grange the turnstile treatment allowing the latter to burst straight through to set up a try to Chris Jonck from which the Sharks never recovered. It was Strauss too who murdered several good opportunities for the Sharks, none more so than when he knocked on with an open tryline begging. Why, oh why, when Adrian Jacobs eventually did come on, was he brought on for the impressive Waylon Murray, rather than the bumbling Strauss?
Mark my words, fans – the Sharks are going to have to find a way to start playing effective rugby again very quickly if they are to avoid a defeat in Kimberley this weekend. Any talk of bonus points, huge winning margins and holding thumbs that the Lions deny Western Province a bonus point is premature. Perhaps a stuffing at the hands of Griquas might be just what we need, to set the tone for the inevitable thrashing that another team in blue will hand out to us the week thereafter.Tweet