Pre-season is a good time to talk about what needs to be done this season to get the most out of it, and there is no emotion to ugly the criticism. So here I go with areas I would like to see improvement in. Add yours below.
The Front Row – These guys were machines last year and it is really hard to find fault in them, but if you scratch hard enough you will find something. Half way through last years Tri-Nations and after, a few cracks did show, and it was due to John, Bis and Beast not having more tricks up their sleeves. It was unfortunate that the referees decided to target them, while ignore the illegal tactics of the opposition, but hopefully they learnt of new ways to counter one eyed referees. The only other flaw could be the Du Plessis brothers’ tempers. They are machines, but if they lose their cool the team goes down with them. Hold it together guys.
The Second Row – Again it is difficult to fault these players. They all pushed their weight and more in the scrums and played like Trojans in the loose. The only real criticism was lineouts where poor communication between them and the hookers created havoc.
The Loose Forwards – This was one of the Sharks weaknesses last year. Although they defended well, their work at the breakdown was inconsistent. They also failed regularly to shadow ball carriers. Although the ball carriers have to take some blame here as they would run away from their back up and get isolated. I would like to see a lot more cohesion between ball carriers and backup. With Mostert and Alberts in the mix, the Sharks have enough depth to cover another Deysel injury. You guys also need to help the boys in front out more during scrum time, your Bok counterparts really let John, Bis and Beast down in the scrums. If you want to hang off the scrum, play scrumhalf.
The Scrumhalf – Well here we have three totally different players (I include Ruan here) and that is a big problem. It must be difficult for the backline to play when you have such a difference in game styles. It will be nice to see all three mix it up more, it is your job to keep the opposition guessing. Rory needs to distribute more. Ruan needs to pass it less. Charl does both these well, but just fell short of the skill levels of the other two. If these guys can get it right this year our backline could get back to their 2007 levels.
The Flyhalf – Well this is a new position for the Sharks this year as we never had one in last years Super 14. I feel Monty has what it takes to play ten, but he must be given more time on the park. He showed some good skill in the Currie Cup and there is no reason he can’t carry this through to Super 14. If Morne Steyn is national flyhalf, it means anybody that can kick goals can play ten. Morne offers nothing else. Ruan will also play well here if the place kicking is taken away from him. Ruans tactical kicking is pin point, but his game deteriorates the more his place kicks miss the mark. Rory and Lambie could take a lot of pressure off Ruan’s shoulders here by taking over kicking duties.
Centers – Well we know these guys can defend, cos this is all they did last year. Riaan needs to offer more on attack. Adi and Waylon need to stop crabbing and straighten up more often. Lambie ??? (I haven’t seen him play center).
Wings – Our wings need to find work. Last year all the wings did was play fetch with Stefan. JP has the speed and skill to be better than Habana, but he doesn’t look for work so he never gets the ball. Odwa is a great player in tight games where fullback duties are important, but his lack of pace hampered the Sharks on attack. Mvovo needs to work on his decision making. Far too often he ran away from his players leaving the ball open to turnover when he got tackled. Eventhough he is a wing, he needs to make sure he has a team mate near him to off load to or assist when he is stopped. It will actually be nice to see the backline play more than 5 minutes of rugby a game this year.
Fullback – Hooray for Lambie and Ludik. With two attacking full backs in the Sharks squad we may get some bonus points this season. I really like Stefan, but I want to see him (and John Smit) played more in the last half when experience and cool heads close out games. No point in using him in the first 60 when we want to get tries.
Management – Rotate your players, make sure the backup gets good game time. Injuries and player burnout lost us a semi berth last year, because the back up wasn’t prepared to take over or simply wasn’t used to give players a rest. Monty got undue criticism last year, because he was expected to step in and take over with very little game time under his belt. Also ten man rugby wins games but it doesn’t win the Super 14, for every 3 games you don’t get a bonus point is the equivalent to a loss. And if you lose, get that bonus point. Against the Reds and Cheetahs last year we lost and we never lost within seven. Those two lost bonus points were probably the most costly mistakes in last year’s campaign.
Referees – These guys deteriorated under the change in laws and the Sharks sometimes got in their faces too often. We need a captain* this year that can keep his cool with the referee under pressure. Last year, referees decided more wins than players did. So be nice to the fools. Question the referees, but don’t criticise them, their egos are more fragile than yours.
*I wrote this before the captain announcement, but the backup Captains must also keep their heads.Tweet