On Saturday I was fuming, how could the referee call that a knock on, the ball was rolling backwards? The Sharks were robbed yet again. But then I went to bed and woke up the following morning without my black and white glasses on, and realised the Sharks were far worse than the referee.
Before I continue on the Sharks, the referee wasn’t squeaky clean during the game and shouldn’t be let off the hook. But all South African teams should know that when playing a foreign team, they are going to get an inferior referee so their game must be 10 points better than the opposition to allow for the call(s) that will turn the game against you. And there definitely was more than one, for instance if you consider the Chiefs were also penalised an unacceptable number of times and not yellow carded.
But I am sick of whining about referees, so lets rather focus on the real villains, the Sharks. Last year I was brutal on my assessment of Johan Muller as a captain, the way he couldn’t rally the troops and his regular outburst at referees never helped the Sharks cause. I need to apologise to him on the former assessment. I don’t think it was his fault he couldn’t rally the troops, but rather the players themselves. Is this a legacy of Dick Muir’s “every man is a leader” policy? Although John Smit was impressive with his diplomacy towards the referee, his team mates had no intention of adjusting their game to appease the anal Keith Brown. Two notables were the Du Plessis brothers. I can hear the outcry at my accusation, “Can’t be the Du Plessis brothers, they are angels.” But I have to disagree with you guys here. Jannie’s and Bis’ refusal to tweak their gameplan to satisfy the referee cost the Sharks dearly. I am starting to lose all respect and support for these two vigilantes, and secretly I’m hoping someone does offer them a contract elsewhere.
Another player that has had too many chances now and has lost all my hope I had in him is Monty Dumond. Some players have ceilings, and they cannot get any better to break through. Monty unfortunately is one such player. The guy has skill, but lets be honest with ourselves, he is unable to lift his game to get it to the level required in Super 14. During the game I gave him the benefit of doubt, because the conditions were dreadful, but when Ruan replaced him the difference was vast. An undercooked Ruan made Monty look average at best. So as much as I like the guy, I have to be honest and suggest dropping him and look at bringing Pat Lambie in to get him ready for the future.
Stefan Terblanche was brilliant until he kicked the ball away aimlessly. His positional play was amazing, but his kicking kept allowing the Chiefs back into the Sharks half. The correct blowing of the Laws protects the ball carrier, so why in hell does he constantly give the ball back to the opposition. I expect more from this guy, yet when it counts he makes stupid decisions.
Odwa Ndugane or JP? Why, you ask? Simple actually, they are both brilliant defensive players, but neither offer anything on attack. Odwa should be the one dropped, on Saturday when Odwa ran up-field I’m almost certain I saw a geriatric with a walker pass him. The Sharks need at least one wing that can carry the ball up and make some ground, this shouldn’t only be Ryan Kankowski’s job. As in the last year he has made more breaks up the touch line than either wing.
Overall the Sharks need to sort out simple issues. The first one is hold onto the ball, even if it means driving it up with the forwards for 80 minutes, but by giving it back to the opposition you are never going to get out your half. Saturday showed this. Secondly handling, the Sharks players know what the conditions are like in Durban in February, yet every year they get outplayed by the opposition. Wake up and deal with it, it isn’t an excuse anymore. Support play is still limited out wide and players are still getting themselves isolated. How hard is it to slow down and make sure someone is there to protect you when you are tackled, or hoof it up field so you can’t get tackled. And finally selections, why was Keegan Daniel on the field in a thunderstorm? In the rain you have your workhorses, not your show ponies.
But every cloud has a silver lining, and the Sharks was Rory Kockett’s performance. He played well. He passed the ball, he box kicked well and overall he had a great all round performance. There may be some hope if he keeps this up, Ruan doesn’t get injured and we don’t need to use Jannie du Plessis again this season. But I am not going to get excited, I have a gut feeling the Sharks will be lucky to make the top six this year, unless they do a large spring clean of their skills.Tweet