With the vast majority of the Sharks pack that featured in the Super 14 unavailable, at least for the first few rounds of Currie Cup action, the Sharks are going to have to change their strategy somewhat in order to achieve early success in the competition.
The Super 14 season was, in general, a tale of woe, but the one thing that did really start to work nicely, particularly towards the end of the season when the Sharks won 7 of their last 8 games, was the pack. The myriad failings in the back line were, to an extent, masked by the fact that Plumtree and co had managed to mould a truly formidable set of forwards, which was able to secure and retain possession virtually at will. The endless succession of pick-and-gos and rolling mauls may not have been every fan’s cup of tea, but at least they resulted in territory, pressure and ultimately, points for the good guys.
Sweeping changes in personell will necessitate a fresh approach. THAT pack contained the likes of John Smit, Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira (all with the Boks) as well as Johann Muller (moved on), Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Bismarck du Plessis (all injured). The pack likely to be named to face Griquas in the first round (as well as the Blue Bulls in the second) is likely to be geared towards mobility and skill, rather than bulk and aggression. It’s hard to express exactly how much of a hard edge your pack loses when you take a Deysel, an Alberts or a Smit out of the equation. Losing so many at once and replacing them with eager youngsters changes the dynamic entirely and it would be foolhardy to try and play the same style of rugby and expect the same results.
There is a flipside, though – a silver lining if you will. In bringing in players like Pat Cilliers, Craig Burden, Alistair Hargreaves and Keegan Daniel the Sharks are in a unique position to field a pack that, while considerably lighter than anything the Bulls, Province or Free State are likely to field, should also be a hell of a lot more mobile with plenty of pace and skill. Use that wisely and we could end up playing a far more exciting and dynamic brand of rugby than we did in the Super 14.
The unfortunate reality, though, is that the backs will need to be involved every step of the way. Let’s hope that we can see a new brand of Sharks rugby emerging as a result of these changes – in fact, it might even be one strangely reminiscent of the one we used to play back in the golden era of Sharks rugby. A man can dream, can’t he?Tweet