Considering the depth, experience and talent at their disposal, the Sharks are hot favourites for Super 15 glory.
It is hard to argue against the depth the Sharks has at the moment. In just about every position they have a back-up player not just capable of stepping up to the plate, but most of whom have Super rugby experience too.
Where the two other favourite South African franchises have serious questions raised against them in the depth department, especially in the half-backs, the Sharks sit with some of the hottest new talent and players.
But their greatest strength can very easily become their greatest weakness.
I have always found it fascinating how well prepared our NZ and Ozzy cousins are ahead of each Super rugby season. Their squads are announced months ahead from the kick-off which enables them to hit the ground running.
When you listen to South African coaches however, a different picture emerges.
Not a single coach, apart from the Bulls perhaps, have a clear idea who their best 15, or preferred run-on 15 are. Even the Sharks with all their depth in key positions, looks that they will be using warm-up games to still figure this out.
This is extremely risky in my opinion.
If anything, warm-up fixtures such as the Tri-series between the Sharks, Stormers and Lions, should be used to give your fringe, or back-up players as much game time as possible, with at most, short 20 minute stints from your first choice players to get them contact ready whilst testing combinations with fringe players, without much risk of injury or early burn-out.
As an example, key players for the Sharks the likes of John Smit, Bismarck, Beast, Sykes, Alberts, Lambie, Stefan and Mvovo should at most see no more than 30 minutes of rugby in upcoming series, and if any of them carry any niggles whatsoever, they should not even make the trip to Cape Town.
Let Van Staden pack down in the front row with John and Bismarck to see how the combination gels, but only for a couple of minutes. Let Burden feels what it’s like to have the Beast prop up the scrum and see how that combo goes. Let Jacques Louis Potgieter combine with McCleod rather than Lambie being risked.
Have Bosman get used to the structures at the Sharks playing with Adi and Oupa outside him.
Point is, the Sharks are in the enviable position where they can do this and not risk their front-line players. In a competition where rotation and rest to players will be key, and where your back-up and fringe players will have to step into combinations with minimum disruption crucial, the Sharks’ mission should not be to play guys they know capable, but guys that will be asked to step in at a moment’s notice.
This however, would imply Plumtree know who his best 15, or 22 is, so the question is, does he? From what I read, I don’t think so, and this might just be a case of the Sharks biggest strength, also being their biggest weakness.Tweet