The first round of the 2010 Super 14 is behind us and in the last game of the round the Sharks were beaten by a last-minute penalty. Most people say it’s early days and there is still lots of rugby to be played. Both true statements, but historically the Sharks have struggled when they lose the first game of a Super rugby season.
Those are big claims to make, so I’m going to need to back up my claims and for that I did a bit of digging in the archives, the results of which make me very worried.
Below are the results of the first game of the season for the Sharks and their final log position.
1996: Beat Western Province 28-22; final log position: 4th (losing finalists)
1997: Beat Highlanders 75-43; final log position: 4th (losing semi-finalists)
1998: Beat Blues 24-8; final log position 3rd (losing semi-finalists)
1999: Drew with Waratahs 13-13; final log position: 7th
2000: Lost to Hurricanes 23-40; final log position: 12th
2001: Beat Bulls 30-17; final log position: 2nd (losing finalists)
2002: Lost to Stormers 18-25; final log position: 10th
2003: Lost to Stormers 18-40; final log position: 11th
2004: Beat Bulls 23-18; final log position: 7th
2005: Lost to Stormers 12-26; final log position 12th
2006: Beat Chiefs 30-21; final log position: 5th
2007: Beat Bulls 17-3; final log position: 1st (losing finalists)
2008: Beat Western Force 17-10; final log position: 3rd (losing semi-finalists)
2009: Beat Stormers 20-15; final log position: 6th
So, what does this mean? The Sharks have never made the semi-finals after losing their first game. In fact, they have finished in the bottom three every time they have lost their first game, which has happened four times. The only season with a first game draw, ended with the Sharks finishing 7th, which in the Super 12 days was a bottom half finish.
So, if the draw was bad enough (I honestly don’t think the draw could have been worse) the Sharks are now on track for a bottom three finish, if history continues to repeat itself. The Cheetahs game has been billed as a hugely important game, this team is much better than their Saturday night shambles showed and they need to prove it. The guys should have put away a largely second string Chiefs outfit, which was missing many key players.
It is now up to the coaching staff and senior players to really stand up and prove their worth, by taking ownership and sorting out the issues affecting the team. Bad discipline reflects a bad team spirit and that needs to be urgently addressed otherwise I fear the Sharks are heading for the basement, and they are a MUCH better team than that!