The Sharks have managed to yet again start a season poorly, with three wins from seven games, and even though five of those have been away games, they have found themselves in the position to win at least three, if not four of those away games. A lot has been said over the last few days, from missing links and captaincy issues, to who a new coach possibly could be. I am not disagreeing with any of that, I am venturing into the possibility of a short term solution.
The question I find myself with is, “What would I have done if I were John Plumtree?” Now each of us has our own ideas, from playing Paul Jordaan to dropping Keegan and giving the captaincy to Bismarck. All those ideas are valid and it is what you would have done had you been in charge. Would the Sharks have won in that case? Who knows, but in your mind, it would have been better, but I digress.
The reality of the situation is that the Sharks have nine games left in the season, of which six are at home, and could still make an impression on this competition. No drastic changes will take place between now and the end of the season, and we are left hoping and holding our collective breaths that somehow things will get better. The big question is, how?
In my opinion, drastic changes in personnel and positions will not be the right way to go. Making ten changes to the team will do more harm than good, and we really cannot afford to go making too many changes, as we do not have real experienced backup to call on. From what I have seen on the park, we have found a few gems in certain players, and some combinations are working really well. The idea must now be to get those little things that are not working, out of our play.
Looking at the team, there is not much that can be done to our current tight five, with injuries hampering key players such as Tendai Mtawarira and our best lock Ross Skeate. Those two players are not only key in terms of playing ability, but their leadership ability on the park that is currently missing as they have been replaced by rookies Dale Chadwick and Jandre Marais, two players that have done their utmost best, but cannot fill the leadership, experience and cool headedness gaps.
In our loose trio, we are finally fully stocked in terms of having both Jean Deysel and Willem Alberts at our disposal, with the only missing link being Ryan Kankowski. Considering his poor form at the start of the season, one has to wonder how much worse the Sharks would have been had he been fit, as Marcell Coetzee would surely have missed out to accommodate him.
Moving onto the backline, the coaches have made the necessary change by playing Charl McLeod ahead of Fred Michalak at scrumhalf, a positive change in my mind, and had it not been for the Lambie injury, I doubt Fred would have seen much more than ten minutes at the end of each game. Unfortunately, he has been called on to play in a position that he has clearly not been training in, and this has let the team down. The reality is that the Sharks do not possess a flyhalf that can step into Lambie’s boots should the young player need a break, or heaven forbid, pick up a long term injury.
On a positive note, the find of the season has to be not only Tim Whitehead, but his combination with JP Pietersen. Their interplay is fantastic, defensively we have seen very few leaks and we finally have centres that are breaking the line, every game! The unfortunate thing is that it does not matter that Whitehead broke the line three times against the Hurricanes, because firstly, he had no support or player on his shoulder to which he could offload, and secondly, the technique used in our rucking to get the ball back once he was tackled, is illegal and not coached well enough, and the ball is ultimately lost.
Moving on to our back three, another positive is the form and ability of Riaan Viljoen, who has added something to the Sharks backline that we haven’t seen in a while, which is the ability to come into the line and attack, combined with his skills under the high ball, is a good find for the men in black.
My biggest concern in the current setup is the distinct lack of a succession plan after the likes of John Smit and Stefan Terblanche left the Sharks. What should happen in the case of Keegan Daniel going down and with Bismarck already out this is not an unlikely scenario, who would take the reigns? Ill-discipline has cost the Sharks a few games in the current tournament, and is something that not only the players should look at, but also the coaches. A player cannot be blamed for not doing something properly, if he has not been coached to do something properly.
All in all, this is not a happy article asking us to back our boys, and it is not an article stating that we should all give up hope on the boys, I will leave that to the other writers. It’s an overall look from a pretty unbiased perspective of what exactly is wrong, and right, at the Sharks.Tweet