I’ve been ridiculed in the past for trying to take positives from Sharks losses and such was personal sense of disappointment and disillusionment after Western Province stole the Currie Cup from right under our noses last year, that I didn’t even think of trying to do so. In fact, I walked away from all rugby for as long as I could after that result and am still really battling to understand how the whole thing happened.
Something has come out today, though, that makes me think there may actually be a silver lining, no matte how faint. I’m, of course, ignoring all the talk of “revenge and retribution” that is said to be the Sharks’ primary motivation going into this game. I would like to think that he Sharks wouldn’t need to be motivated by anything as petty as that, but would rather have the confidence in their own abilities to back themselves to win a home game, regardless of opposition. If anyone allows themselves to lose focus on their own game, by being determined to “show the Stormers a thing or two”, the inevitable results will be a disjointed defeat, rather than the cohesive team performance needed to ensure victory.
No, what’s giving me just a little hope is one of the comments John Plumtree made yesterday, namely that “no matter how painful it was, maybe it served as an eye-opener to things that needed urgent attention.” Plumtree was, of course, referring to that final loss against WP and the “things” to which he refers are specifically the Sharks’ poor performances at lineout (and to a lesser extent scrum) time during not only that game, but many other preceding it. Set pieces, in short, have been given a huge amount of emphasis during this year’s pre-season and while in the past we’ve been quick to accuse the Sharks of being slow to learn from their mistakes, there is some cause for hope that this year, at least, they may have finally got the message.
Anyone watching the scrums, in particular, against the Cheetahs will, I’m sure, feel a fair bit of confidence in the Sharks’ props’ ability to properly dominate in the coming contest, but it is perhaps the line-outs that, while still not perfect in terms of execution, have shown the biggest improvement. Whilst much of the talk centres on the inability of Bok hooker Adriaan Strauss to find his own jumpers with any regularity, it should not be forgotten that the Sharks, for the first time in ages, managed not to lose any lineouts on their own throw.
Early days yet, but encouraging signs if they can keep it up.Tweet