This is hardly rocket science, I guess, but it seems to be a very strong pattern that’s emerging; the Sharks give away far too many penalties in games and have done so for quite some time. It seems that all you need to do in order to beat the Durbanites these days is pick a 90% goal kicker and let the Sharks do the rest.
Am I oversimplifying? Of course I am, but there’s a point to be made here. Just looking back at the five most recent defeats the Sharks have suffered, across both Super Rugby and Currie Cup, in all but one of those cases, the winning side have scored at least 15 points through penalties, in the process creating a scoreboard buffer that the losers have been unable to overcome. It starts to read like a bit of a horror hstory, albeit a far too predictable one; in September last year, the Cheetahs won 53-32 in Bloemfontein, thanks in no small part to five penalties from Johan Goosen that saw the Sharks playing catch-up all the way through. Again in the Currie Cup final, it was Elton Jantjies who banged over 5, with Jaco Taute adding a 6th, en route to an embarrassingly one-sided 42-16 win.
In both of this season’s matches to date, the Sharks have been quite lucky that at various stages, both Morne Steyn and Joe Pietersen were uncharacteristically wayward off the tee. In the end, they finished with figures of 5 (Steyn) and 4 (Pietersen), with Peter Grant adding the magical fifth last week to continue the pattern. While we as fans bemoan the close losses, the reality is that both games could have been lost by wider margins had these kickers been more on song.
Penalties, in short, are the cancer that is killing Sharks rugby. Unless we find a way to stop them, improve the technique, better understand the laws, root out the culprits and do whatever it takes to fix the discipline, there will be a lot more pain to come, with Elton Jantjies already sure to be licking his lips at the prospect of another easy bonanza of points against the men in black and white this weekend.Tweet