I’d like to pick up on a point that has been made by a few posters in the wake of this weekend’s results, which I feel points to something of an endemic issue in Sharks rugby at the moment. There simply doesn’t seem to be a killer instinct in our teams at the moment and it’s hurting us.
Looking back at the Sharks’ loss against the Waratahs, as well as the Sharks XV’s narrower-than-expected win over a seriously understrength Free State side in the Vodacom Cup, there was a disturbing trend – across both teams – for the Sharks to concede points pretty much immediately after scoring. This is hardly a new phenomenon and we have for some years bemoaned the Sharks’ seeming inability to ever properly put a side away; to turn a strong (even dominant) performance in a game into a truly one-sided victory on the scoreboard.
Let’s take the example of the Sharks performance against the Lions in round 3 and compare that to the Bulls’ weekend demolition of the Reds. There are clear differences in quality between these sides to begin with, with the Reds the defending Super Rugby champions and the Lions, well, not! Further to that, the Sharks faced a Lions site battling with injuries all over the park, but especially in the front row and at flyhalf. Likewise, the Reds team that played at Loftus was quite severely depleted through injury, particularly amongst the backs. On paper, both of these games should have been easy victories for the home sides.
Now I know that what follows is an overly-simplistic comparison, but why is it that the Bulls should be able to rout a weakened Reds side to the tune of 61-8, scoring 8 tries in the process, whilst the best the Sharks could manage against an even weaker Lions team was a 32-20 win that was never as comfortable as the final scoreline suggests? In fact, had it not been for a try on the hooter, the Lions would have held the Sharks to three tries apiece and seldom found themselves much more than a score or two behind the hosts. The reason, again, being the Sharks tendency to give away easy points the moment they start to feel comfortable.
There are many reasons behind the Sharks’ last-minute heartbreak in Sydney, with fatigue probably being the most telling. That said, had the side not allowed the Tahs to always stay in touch by allowing the concentration levels to drop, perhaps they may have been able to hold on better – or at least have a bigger buffer to defend – in those last 20 minutes when it all went so wrong.
Killer instinct is a mental skill, after all and I fear that when it comes to the mental development of our players, the Sharks are once again a few steps behind the conference pace-setters from Pretoria and Cape Town.Tweet