The Sharks face the Force this weekend in what should be one of the more comfortable wins of the season, seeing as the Sharks are at home and the Force are travelling in what is one of their worst seasons to date, currently propping up the Australian conference with two wins from ten matches.
Let’s forget about the opposition for a minute, and focus on what is important, and that is what we would like to see from the Sharks this weekend. The Sharks managed to beat an impressive looking Highlanders side, picking up four points in the process, but lacking the flair and tries that we as fans always expect from the men in black and white. A win, nevertheless, is a win, and four points in the bag is much better than a losing bonus point.
The Sharks do however, find themselves with quite a challenge this weekend, as nothing but a full five pointer will satisfy the ever decreasing crowd at Mr Price Kings Park, with only 18 730 people witnessing the Highlanders victory last weekend. The full five points would go a very long way in not only pushing the Sharks closer to that play-off zone, but will also give the team’s confidence a massive boost.
Apart from the above, there are a few things that I would dearly like to see happen in the Sharks’ play, and I will discuss each of these briefly:
Firstly, our set pieces improved dramatically against the Highlanders, and that level of dominance in the scrums should be non-negotiable against the Force. Our lineouts have also improved, with the exception of the quick ball from the top, which that pass from high up to the nominated scrumhalf going to ground more often than not. I am a big fan of quick ball, but let’s secure the ball first, and then go about the fancy stuff.
Charl McLeod has come under a lot of criticism for his play behind our pack of forwards. I have to be honest in that he has never been my favourite player, and that my hopes were pinned on Conrad Hoffmann replacing him, but he is currently the best in the Sharks setup. From him, I would like to see quicker ball from the base of the ruck, with less flapping and more passing. Our backline has some potent runners, and we need to unleash them against unorganised defences in order to take full advantage. Slow ball does not allow this.
The amount of silly errors the Sharks make is embarrassing at times, with penalties not being kicked out, skew lineouts, going off our feet at ruck time. If we can reduce the amount of silly penalties, and only concede those where we have a fifty percent chance of getting the ref’s call, for example getting our hands on the ball at the breakdown, the Sharks would have more ball to play with, and a greater chance of scoring points. Basically, we want to see the basics done well.
Kick-offs have been a shambles, with Lambie trying the short kick off to a chasing wing, which has gone into touch every time I have seen it attempted. It just does not work. Keep it simple, get the forwards under the kickoff and put the pressure on the team taking the ball. Competing for this ball puts pressure on the team taking kick off, and could result in a knock and then we are on the front foot.
Defensively, we have seen a great improvement from the Sharks in recent weeks, and we want to consistently see them tackle like they did against the Highlanders. Defence win matches, never forget that.
Lastly, the old habit of not playing for the full 80 minutes was finally broken last weekend, when the Sharks, for the first time this season, played the full game, and that with minimal substitutions until the 70th minute. That coupled with conceding points immediately after scoring points, is a trait the Sharks battle to get right, and improving that will go a long way in getting the fans happy.
This has turned into a longer than I thought piece, with individual matters jumping to mind as I am writing, and has become something of a wish list. I am not expecting the Sharks to magically produce the goods and be perfect, but small steps in the right direction can not only see us potentially in the play-offs, but will put the team in good stead heading into a Currie Cup campaign, and building to Super Rugby 2013.Tweet