Composure will be the key if the floundering Sharks hope to turn around their Super 14 season against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday, according to veteran midfielder Adi Jacobs.
Following five successive defeats at the start of the season, four of those with five points or less, the star-studded Sharks outfit is nearing the end of what captain John Smit has described as being one of the toughest tours he has ever been on.
Following defeats against the Chiefs (by one point) and Cheetahs (by five points) at home, they have since slumped to further losses against the Crusaders (their only blow-out thus far – 6-35), the Waratahs (four points) and the Brumbies (two points).
Now back on New Zealand soil, the third time on tour they have crossed the Tasman Sea, they hope to catch the Highlanders on the hop.
The Dunedin-based Kiwi outfit, who have managed just one win from their five starts, are returning from a tough three-match South African tour – which included bruising defeats at the hands of the Stormers and Bulls.
Jacobs admitted that “the ball is not bouncing” right for the Sharks at the moment, but said the positive coming out off all this is that they are very competitive.
Like coach John Plumtree and the captain, Smit, he dismissed the suggestion that they are a team in disharmony.
“We have looked very hard at ourselves and know we have to work as a unit,” Jacobs told rugby365.com, from the team’s training base at the South Island holiday resort of Queenstown.
“While it is frustrating, we know we are close and we are almost there,” he said of the four narrow defeats.
“We know we can win, we just need to keep our composure and take the opportunities we create.”
He said there is certainly not a lack of talent in the team, but they need to function on the field as a collective, rather than individuals.
“If you look at it collectively, we do have the experience … the guys with plenty of Test caps.
“All we need to do is keep our composure and not make those mistakes.”
Jacobs said a lengthy video session at the start of the week against showed up where they need to focus on to avoid stepping into the same pitfalls as before.
“We know exactly what we have done wrong, what our mistakes are,” Jacobs told rugby365.com, adding: “We have work hard [on correcting that] and are looking forward to getting out there and play against the Highlanders on Saturday.”
While the Sharks conceded four tries against the Crusaders, in their other games their defence worked fine. It was on attack that they fell short.
“Attack depends a lot on the quality of the ball you get – if you get scrappy ball the attack will struggle.
“However, as I said, the team knows what needs to be done.
“We must just stick to our structures and work harder. It is not the end of the world, yet. We are very positive about this week’s game.
“Yes, we are a bit frustrated about things not going our way, but we will step up.”
The Sharks have been forced into another bout of denials, following reports in the media of a team rift.
“I can categorically state that ours is not an unhappy team,” coach John Plumtree said.
“I am sick of reading that. It’s being sensationalised, it’s incorrect and questionable and it irritates me because it’s all unfounded criticism.”
Captain John Smit also rubbished claims that the team is in strife within their own corridors.
“I can tell you that if there was a rift in the camp, we wouldn’t be competitive,” said Smit.
“That makes it even more ridiculous. I’ve been on tours where things weren’t right within the team, when guys jump ship. We lost by 40 or 50 points. But there is no way we would be trying so hard if there was a rift in the camp. The rumours are completely untrue.”
Article courtesy of Jan De Koning at Rugby 365.Tweet