The challenge when rating the players after a game like Friday’s is that, at all times, you need to take into account the quality of opposition. Then again, you can only play what’s in front of you and giving any low ratings in a game where you emerge 9-tries-to-zero victors would seem somewhat petty. The Sharks were pretty good all round, but there were some periods of uninspiring, sloppy play that won’t be acceptable against stronger opposition.
Let’s look at how the individuals did.
1) Eugene van Staden. The burly “Gena” is fast becoming a crowd favourite at the Tank and put in another solid showing. Playing for the first time at loosehead (for the Sharks, anyway), he struggled in one or two scrums and also dropped a few balls in contact. Scored a great try, though and his work rate is superb. 7/10
2) Craig Burden. Burden is just such a valuable ball carrier for the Sharks and on so many occasions on Friday night, he was the guy who injected a little bit of gas and forced the line break that made things happen. Didn’t score any himself, but set up a few along the way. A solid performance. 8/10
3) Jannie du Plessis. Scored two tries and was an absolute rock in the scrums and on defence – this in his first game back after a spell on the sidelines. Well played, Jannemen. He’s going to be a key player for the Sharks in the weeks to come. 8/10
4) Steven Sykes. Always there or thereabouts, but Sykesie is somehow just not really “standing out” at the moment. I’m always loathe to give him a low rating, because when we look at the stats, we always see him putting in huge work at the breakdowns, which is his job, after all. He put in some neat touches around the park as well. I just think he can be better. 6/10
5) Gerhard Mostert. Was pretty active, but also dropped a few passes and was found a bit lacking in the match fitness department. His first game back in over 6 months, though, so it’s encouraging that he simply managed to get through without injury. Mossie will only improve from here. 5/10
6) Jaques Botes. I don’t think the Sharks always realise just how vital Botes is to their efforts. There is no player in the country with a higher work rate than him and his uncanny ability to pop up in the right place at the right time, putting in a deft pass or a vital tackle makes him utterly, utterly indispensable. 9/10
7) Willem Alberts. Only got 20 minutes this week, which is 20 minutes more than he should have played. Not really fair to give him a rating on that, but he was on course for an 8, at least. Let’s just hope and pray his knee injury isn’t serious.
8) Keegan Daniel. Keegs showed two important things here. Firstly, he has the maturity and respect of his teammates needed to captain the side. And secondly, he’s a superb number 8 and really shouldn’t be played out of position on the flank. An accomplished all-round performance that showed off the variety of his skills. 9/10
9) Charl McLeod. Another accomplished performance from the number 9, although his service did start to fall off a bit once the forwards started to play a little looser. The high rating given to his flyhalf, though, is a testament to how well McLeod performs the basics of his position. 8/10
10) Andre Pretorius. Performed admirably in his first start for the Sharks, with some neat touched on attack and a flawless goal-kicking display. Will ahve given John Plumtree some big selection headaches with this performance. 9/10
11) Lwazi Mvovo. A quiet game by his standards, although had the ball bounced differently on a few occasions, could well have celebrated a hat trick. The timing and synergy between him and Ndungane wasn’t quite there on the night and the back three lacked potency as a result. 7/10
12) Riaan Swanepoel. Started off well with a superb break to set up the first try, but seemed to get sucked into a wrestling match afterwards. So strong on defence, but Swannie is just lacking that extra bit of unpredictability that would make him more of a threat on attack. 7/10
13) Andries Strauss. Played out of position at 13, where he simply doesn’t have the pace to make the position work. Always tries his guts out and is superb on defence and as a support player, but not the strike runner we need. 6/10
14) Odwa Ndungane. Played a big part in destroying two regulation scoring opportunities for his partner Mvovo, but you have to realise that Odwa makes more mistakes than other players simply because he does so much more work around the park. Scored two of his own to mark a memorable 50th Currie Cup cap. Another player whose true value is only realised when he’s not there. 8/10
15) Louis Ludik. A constant threat with ball in hand and a rock on defence. Ludik is the complete fullback and is improving steadily with each outing. 8/10
16) Kyle Cooper. Played his part in maintaining the forward supremacy in the second half, with a high work rate and surprising pace for such a big man. Sharks MUST keep this lad at all costs. 8/10
17) Pat Cilliers. Forced to play a bit of front-row merry-go-round, but Pat was solid on the night, if not spectacular. 7/10
18) Anton Bresler. Enjoyed a rare 30 minutes of top rugby and revelled in the opportunity, hitting rucks with gusto and doing the basics of his position flawlessly. 7/10
19) Michael Rhodes. A tough one to rate. Mike has suffered from “bench syndrome” the last few weeks and looked a little rusty – dropping a few passes and failing to exert his physical presence quite the way one would expect. He’s still a talented player, though and in time can become a very useful alternative to Alberts and Jean Deysel. 6/10
20) Rory Kockott. Played really well on Friday. Sensed that the urgency and energy levels were flagging a little and injected his own breed of enthusiasm to lift the team around him and make things happen. Rocket hates being on the bench, but he does have the ability to really lift the intensity of the team and keep tired defenders guessing as an impact replacement. 8/10
21) Patrick Lambie. Slotted straight in at flyhalf and looked like he’d been there all along. Pat is so dependable for one of his young years and really is a special talent. The Sharks can build a back line around him that will win trophies with regularity in the years to come. 8/10
22) Luzuko Vulindlu. Surprisingly good and injected the pace that is so missing from Strauss’s game. Zuks is still very raw and needs polishing, but he has all the attributes needed to succeed and the Sharks really do need to get him onto the field more often. 7/10