It was not the best of performances but there is no need for the predictable jitters reverberating amongst the Sharks supporters at the moment.
I personally predicted a WP win based on some very obvious factors.
The first is WP only lost once against one of the top teams at home this year (Cheetahs) which was arguably their worst performance of 2010, and the second reason is that the Sharks had the luxury of experimenting a bit in selections and award some fringe players or Boks some much needed game time which left two teams with two very different goals going into the match.
Unfortunately the value of this experiment will only be felt in the future where the value of involving the fringe and/or game deprived players opportunities will become apparent.
For the team it is vitally important to remember what they are capable of producing, both as individuals and as a team – they did not end top of the log for nothing and it is this very fact that should form the foundation of the attitude the team needs to take into practice and effectively to the park on match-day.
When Plum stated early last week he will send his strongest available team to Newlands the general perception is that the best available player in each position is selected for the job at hand. It is easy then to criticize individuals including the coach on the performance delivered, but I have no doubt given the circumstances this was indeed Plum’s strongest available side.
Part of, and arguably the toughest job of any rugby coach, is to assemble and build a squad that is ready for anything, anytime. So part of the balancing act for Plum was resting some players in desperate need of some time off, managing any niggles of players, affording other players much needed game time and considering all of this, what he assembled was the best he had available.
Looking forward to this weekend Plum must now apply the golden rule of rugby in play-off situations – balance.
Sounds easy enough but the reality is far from it.
It starts with balance in selections and combinations to assemble the best possible match-day 22 for the game against the Blue Bulls this weekend.
Then there needs to be a balance in training this week. There will be some sore bodies which took a lot of knocks in the last 4 months and Plum and his coaching team needs to ensure the players are in peak physical and mental conditioning come kick-off on Saturday.
Then of course, there needs to be a shift in balance when it comes to the game plan.
For this Plum’s senior players are going to have to play a vital role. The guys who have played, and won these types of matches, because the team they are up against contains a massive number of players that have done just that.
For my money the focus and buzz-words or phrase for this week in the Sharks camp should be to win this game ‘ugly’.
Believe me, it is much easier to win a game playing ugly rugby than it is to play champagne rugby, and to beat the Blue Bulls you will need to play the game as ugly as they do, or even uglier, because most of the time the guys trying to play the champagne version of the game in a play-off match, are the ones left with none in the Cup at the end of the match…Tweet