We have heard it a million times, there is no ‘I’ in team, the more you practice, the luckier you get, and so it goes on, but none of these really seem to relate to the current Sharks setup, where there is a distinct lack of hunger within the ranks, and the problem is not limited to only the senior squad.
I have been in a very fortunate position to attend a lot of the games at Kings Park, and as a fan of the development of local talent, I generally make a plan to get to the Tank a little earlier, whether it be to watch the Vodacom Cup team, or the Currie Cup age group sides. Many feel, and I agree to a certain extent, that the Sharks have one of the better youth setups in the country, but our teams never prove that fact by way of winning any silverware.
The problem is of a similar nature to our senior side, with teams being inconsistent from one game to another, seemingly able to lift their game for the big matches, but fail to pitch for the smaller games. A few bloggers have mentioned this lack of a killer instinct in our senior side, but it was clearly evident in the Sharks XV match against the EP Kings this Saturday past.
As some of you might have witnessed, the Sharks XV ran out a lead of nearly twenty points, but failed to capitalise on a great start and then somehow managed to hang onto the lead late in the match, when all the momentum was with the visiting team. We have seen this many times with the senior side as well, and not only in the Super Rugby either. When last have the Sharks been able to put 60 to 80 points past a smaller franchise in the Currie Cup? This inability is not the fact that those smaller unions have now suddenly improved a lot, as we see the likes of the Bulls and Cheetahs still murdering sides left, right and centre.
The Sharks as a union, from their academy sides, U19, U21 and senior sides, all seem to have this rot of inconsistency, and the question begs… What can be done to rectify this? Surely a system can be put in place where the youngsters who form the future of Sharks rugby, are coached to the extent that this does not happen, whether you are playing a friendly against Boland or playing a semi-final match.
In my mind, it comes down to the coaching setup, and I am in no way blaming the current coach for this, as it has been a problem since before he even came to South Africa, and it is not something that can be fixed in a year, or even two. The problem is quite simple to illustrate really, when last did the Sharks promote from within its ranks, a coach for the senior side? I am young and can only really call on my experience over the last few years, but I cannot think of one instance where there was a succession plan in place.
This leads to two points that I want to raise. Firstly, not one coach that is involved in our junior ranks, or have been involved over the years, have been good enough to step up to coach the senior side, or even coach another union’s side. So if they are not good enough to one day be a head coach, why are we trusting them with our juniors?
The second point, which is not as dramatic as the first, is that there seems to be no plan at all for the inevitable, which is that at some point, whether it is this year or in three years’ time, the current coach will either leave on his own terms, or will be forced out. What happens then? Are we going to bounce from coach to coach until we find someone who can string two wins together? Why can we not earmark a coach, bring him in at U21 level and let him get to know the players he will one day coach?
I know full well that not many top coaches out there would agree to step back and coach the juniors at any union, and that this request for some forward planning will most likely fall on deaf ears, but wouldn’t it be great if we were great again? The sad reality is that being great does not come from putting a few great players together. I quote Babe Ruth – “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”Tweet