John Plumtree has indicated in a recent interview that a lack of killer instinct is one of the major factors hampering his team’s progress in Super Rugby so far.
Calling for a more clinical, merciless, even ruthless display against the Reds this weekend, the coach has accused his charges of going to sleep at vital stages during last week’s triumph over the Lions, twice letting the visitors get their tails back up just after the Sharks themselves had threatened to run away with the game after scoring tries.
The coach is spot on, of course, but needs to realise that this is hardly a new problem for the Sharks – in fact, the annoying tendency to relax after scoring is one that has become an almost institutional team weakness in recent years and one has to go quite far back, probably even to the 2007 triumph over these same Reds in Brisbane, to find an example of a game that the Sharks dominated from start to finish, both on the field and the scoreboard.
Silly mistakes at crucial times aside, the Sharks of 2012 need to show far more patience and discipline on attack. Penalty concessions on attack – particularly in the opponents’ 22 – are a clear symptom of the sort of white-line fever that makes the team lose their heads when the tryline is close. Ditto the tendency for players to make poor decisions with the tryline in sight, such as Ryan Kankowski’s failure to pass at Loftus, or Keegan Daniel’s ill-thought-out offload against the Lions.
Scoring tries in rugby is addictive indeed and it’s particularly when a team has gone without their ‘fix’ for a while that they tend to become more desperate in the scoring zone. Desperate and clinical, though, are poor bedfellows and one can only hope that the 4-try showing last week may have helped the Sharks get over the worst of the withdrawal symptoms.
Chances to score this weekend will be thin on the ground and if the Sharks don’t find a way to take theirs – to get some value from every trip to the Reds 22 – they’re not going to win. Equally important, though, will be the moments just after those opportunities are converted, because it’s at those times that the Sharks are most vulnerable.Tweet