Okay, so after some negativity, and history lessons, here’s my take on our first game of the season. It’s only 2 more days before our next game and I think we can all do with a more positive take on what could only be described as a dreadful first game for the Sharks.
Don’t worry I’m here to tell you that it is not all that bad for the Sharks. I had to watch the game three times to get to this conclusion, but I believe it takes some time to see things more clearly.
Firstly I have to talk about the ref, for some reason, because of bad behaviour from fans all attention has been taken off the bad performance of the ref. Now I have to admit that he was better than I originally thought since he did actually make some calls that was indeed correct. Especially in the first half it seemed like the Sharks didn’t really get a grip with the strict application of the law and after fair warning I think John was probably send off the field with good reason. So as far as the first half goes I think the ref did a decent-ish job. But then came the second half and while the Sharks had now changed their approach towards the ruck area, it seemed like the ref was letting the Chiefs get away with the same things that got John Smit in trouble. Let me give you some specific examples in the last 20min, there was more before this, but these are the important ones.
Min 61, The Sharks are on attack after Stefan takes a low cross kick and puts Odwa into space, the ball comes out to Ruan and Andries Struass makes a good break and offload to Sykes to set up an attacking ruck in the middlel of the field on the 22. Kockott tries to get quick ball out, but the Chiefs comes in from the side to slow the ball down. When the ball finally gets out, the cover defence is in place and Waylon is stopped 5m short. We did get this penalty, but this was the start of many blatant infringements.
Min 66, We have forward momentum from a line-out on the 40. Kanko, Ruan, Jannie and Keegan get us to the middle of the field and 35m out. Kockott tries to play the ball wide only to have the ball kicked out of his hands. The ref blows for a knock, ignores the objection made by Kockott and misses the professional foul made right in front of him. This would have put the Sharks ahead by 9 the score 18-9.
Min 67 – 68, This is when the ref and line-ref misses the mark by the Chiefs player. They also miss a knock by Botes from the line-out, they ignore the fact that the guy who tackled Jannie never let him go before playing for the ball and then dived over the ball and sealed it off, before blowing Jannie up for playing the ball on the ground. Again the same thing ,the Sharks were penalized for in the first half.
After this Bismarck gets send of and Alberts penalized for two, what I call, over enthusiastic tackles and the Chiefs end up with a line-out 22m out. I don’t blame the ref for this, by the way, I’m just setting up the thing I actually blame him for.
Min 75 (look at 75:55 – 60:00), The Sharks defends well from the line out and puts enough pressure on two rucks of the Chiefs to get the ball back and place it. The ball is out and rightly called so by the ref when the Chiefs pick up the ball, but notice where 19 comes from to take that ball!. If you have the game take a look at him hanging around offside and then from behind no 8 you’ll see him picking up the ball, never retreating behind the last feet.
Min 76, This is when the ball is spread wide from the stolen ball. The ball gets kicked through and JP covers well. Normally I would have agreed with the ref. JP hung on to the ball, but based on the way the Sharks was punished for doing the exact same thing in the first half. This penalty should have gone the way of the Sharks, reason not releasing ball carrier. After this the Chiefs takes the penalty quick, the ref allows it, but it is clearly taken about a meter in front of JP Peterson who was the man penalized. This was a result of the only try in the match. I’m not saying taking the free kick a meter back would have made a difference, but I’m just saying…
Min 80, We all know what happened. I did read someone’s post saying if you are in front of the ball carrier you are offside. This is correct, but when that ball is played back into open field, there is no more ball carrier and anybody on the field is free to play that ball. I think even Keith Brown knows this, since he did blow for the knock on which then resulted in a penalty.
That’s the part the ref had in the game. I think that’s pretty big. I think it cost us a win. And say what you will, if the Sharks had 4 points on the log we would have felt much better about their performance. Plus had the ref been more experienced I think this would have been a better game for both teams and this would have been the only way to fairly evaluate both teams performances on the day. If the Sharks were so bad, then the Chiefs are in trouble against the Lions, because they didn’t really look much better.
Anyway, here’s what I got out of the game.
When the Sharks kept possession for more than one phase they moved the ball forward easily and the Chiefs defence was never the reason for stopping our forward momentum. We need to catch those balls even in bad weather and Kockott and Dumond can’t make those pointless kicks anymore. In fact just to keep it in perspective, I have some stats to show that kicking might just have been the worse part of our play. We made 33 kicks, out of those 33 only 3 was kicks where we regained possession of the ball or gained good territory on the field, 13 of those kicks was pointless. Pointless being, Kicks into the in goal, kicks on attack into opposition hands and kicks from the 22 that did not find touch. The rest of the kicks falls in the middle. The high kicks mostly, those kicks aren’t bad, but really they’re only as good as your chasers, or as good as the opposition is bad under the high ball. 33 Kicks in the match is why we never saw the Sharks play with the ball. That and 8 knocks and 16 penalties. How many times could we possibly have the ball in one match? I know it was raining and all, but we need to keep that ball a little longer. If we do that we’ll do fine.
There’s nothing to panic about, this is the same team that got us the currie cup trophy 2 years ago, and last year got just short of the semi’s in the super 14. Not much has changed and I actually think the application of the law this year benefits the Sharks, as long as it is applied like that to both teams. Last year we lost to teams that bullied us at the breakdown, turnovers was one of our biggest weaknesses. Now we should be protected from that, and players like Keegan and Kanko will feel more free to run the ball.
As far as the scrums go, I don’t think the Sharks were as bad as everyone thinks. The worst part of our scrum was engaging early and touching early and I think we can sort that part out. A couple of times we actually put some pressure on their scrum, but we can still be better. The Chiefs historically does not have the strongest scrum and we should have been more in demand more times. I don’t think the wet field help the scrums and maybe we should judge John at tight head against the Cheetahs.
Then as far as the “scum brothers” go, I think people need to calm down a little. Jannie did not have a bad match. The touch thing annoyed me a little, but really that’s all he did wrong. And Bismarck is a passionate player. I don’t think he got frustrated. He wanted to put pressure on the Chiefs players and took it a little too far. If that guy had passed the ball one second later Bissie would have put him on his back and we all would have been singing a different tune. That’s the type of player he is, all or nothing. Also the ref rambled on about dangerous, intentional, shoulder charge, when really Bismarck just ran into the guy and pushed him down. A penalty and a warning would have been enough. As for Alberts, he’s just like Bissie, all or nothing. He made a pre-emtive tackle, anticipating that the guy would actually catch the ball. Again, had the guy actually caught the ball, what Alberts did could have been brilliant. I think if he knew the guy missed the ball he would have rather played the ball, not the man.
Overall I think this match just was a bad one for us, nothing went our way. I think it’s good we got it out of the way now, rather than seeing this game somewhere in the middle of the tournament when winning becomes even more important. Now we can put this behind us, and look forward to a season where things goes our way again.
That’s my positive spin on things. I hope after the Cheetahs game I can say, “I told you so”.Tweet