On Saturday, the Brumbies came to Kings Park and taught the Sharks a rugby lesson. It’s as simple as that. Here follows my match report and my attempt at reprieve, after painfully analysing the game on TV for a second time.
On another day Burden would have gotten away with it, but unfortunately on Saturday his streak through the middle of the ruck into Brumbies territory ended in a penalty (and rightly so), and the ensuing line-out turned into a couple of phases strung together and a try for Jesse Mogg in the right hand corner before the game hit the 5 minute mark … but not before Charl McLeod made a terrible decision in defence to create the overlap from that final ruck.
At least it was early in the game and surely the Sharks would not let the Brumbies score that easily again, would they? Let’s just see shall we. The next passage of play runs like this, Ludik drops a sitter after confusion between him and Ndungane, Marcell gives away a horror penalty after breaking his bind almost before the ball was put in and the Brumbies burst into the Sharks’ half with a quick tap and their loosies storming over ours. Jordaan gets an opportunity to put the Sharks away, but “over-eagerness” slaps the ball out of his hands and the Brumbies pickl up the scraps, makel a few brilliant offloads and scorel in the left hand corner with just over 10 minutes on the board, but not before Odwa leaves his man on the outside completely open to help both Lambie and Ludik tackle the man on the inside, without any consideration of trapping his arms in the tackle.
I’ve seen the Sharks come back from worse and a nice run from Kanko from a deep kick and a burst through the line from Lambie, from his first front foot ball of the night, gives me hope, only for Keegan to throw a careless inside pass (but at least he’s trying something) and then Steyn even more carelessly kicking the ball away – a touch of desperation (something we don’t expect from a 50 cap Springbok veteran and once called prodigy) … not before two one-off runners got tackled back, the Brumbies making a nuisance of themselves and the ball coming to the backs under pressure. Luckily this all ended in a penalty for the Sharks and they chose to take the three points, when maybe this was an opportunity to play some rugby in the opposition 22 for the first time in a match that was already 20 minutes old. But who could have predicted that it would take another 20-something minutes for them to get another opportunity like this, except maybe a lowly fan sitting in the stands feeling the trickling rain coming down?
Lambie saw some space behind the Brumbies line after a stolen line-out and found Ndungane with a perfectly weighted kick (not his last of the night). It’s unfortunate to say, but many other outside backs would have been able to make more with this type of ball (not the last time this game). A collapsed scrum again goes the way of the Brumbies and again the quick tap has the Sharks loosies on the back foot unable to stop the barrage from the Brumbies. Steyn and Jordaan, man on man with their opposite numbers, drift in defence, making no effort to drive forward and allow another 15 meters or so to be made of them. The ball from the Brumbies is lightning fast and although I am hurting seeing my side rolled over like this, my love for rugby does not let this opportunity to appreciate the game go by. Ludik and Kankowski are left to attempt stopping a diving Tamoua barging over the line (Ludik making a valiant attempt, Kanko, not so much) .
Now the Sharks are starting to fall off even more tackles, Keegan being one of the main culprits and somehow every time the ball goes to Odwa his wing is left wide open and Ludik has to come across to make the tackle. The Brumbies are clearly on the front foot and this usually also means the ref will let more things go for them. They get to the ruck quickly, but on attack they tend to make a bridge that usually stays up, but also at times killed the contest, Kaplan let it go, maybe because the Sharks weren’t contesting in the first place.
The scrums also started to really go haywire, and although I’ve admitted before that I’m no technician in this area, I’m sure I saw their loosehead scrumming on the angle from this point on, and Kaplan did not penalise this once. This coincidentally also lead to their fourth try when the Sharks got a scrum after they failed to do anything with turnover possession (Jordaan could not get himself to bend down and pick the ball up), although the commentators said that the Brumbies had the hit, I clearly saw the Sharks going forward on the hit, and then being under pressure the Brumbies scrummed in on Jannie, causing the tight head and then try… not before JP left his man wide open for the run-in, in the right hand corner.
The Sharks got more ball in the second half and a try of their own. They also limited the Brumbies to a converted penalty and technically won the second half, but on the pitch things went from bad to worse. What looked like a good surge from the Sharks to make a go at a comeback was just an opportunity for one and all to see the gaping hole in the fluency of their overall play. Referee Jonathan Kaplan, better than I initially thought in the first half, took a vacation in the second and let way too many things go, including a clear knock on from the Sharks, but more prominently, Brumbies players going of their feet, coming in from the side and playing the clearing player from offside positions and many other issues at the ruck… the problems at scrum time continued. He also let a few high tackles slip by quietly, two against Lambie and one against Reinach when he came on.
It was sad to notice, in the second half, that the Sharks now with the same amount of possession as their opposition in the first, could not make the same impact and seemed pretty clueless why this could be, as they continued to pass to the first runner, always or almost always starting his run on the back foot (Mcleod’s passes almost always or always going on the left shoulder when passing right and the right shoulder when passing left and over the shoulder when passing deep). You want to make excuses for the guy, as so much of the ball that he was having to dig out was not half what Nic White and then Ian Prior got to play wit, but he managed to do this even when the Sharks were giving him clean ball. It’s amazing that the guys actually made meters in this half – it attests to the quality of these players, but it’s unfortunate that they are not used in a better capacity. Marcell made yards and got isolated and when Cooper came on he managed to do the same thing.
Not once was a pass made behind a runner (unless they did this with a few clearing kicks, but even here I think the ball was just shifted). Marcell insisted on taking the ball, and usually this is good, but sometimes a player needs to look up and see that the defence is in tight and not ask for the ball, but instead draw the defence. He’s not the only culprit, but because of his work-rate he stands out. Again, a high work rate should be a good thing, but not when you’re hogging the ball, when your space is clearly covered. I’ve noticed Marcell or the forwards, who could be dummy runners, plucking the ball out in front of the backs, running off his shoulder, that the ball was intended for. And it’s not much better when the forwards aren’t around to take the ball. It’s stagnant, clueless – it’s just not good rugby.
One can only hope the Sharks took notice of the way their opposition did things on the night and came away with a few things they can take into the rest of a long competition – As, Roger Federer, one of the legends in the game of the small, yellow, fluffy round balls and racquets, with a career record of 891 wins and 202 losses for an 82% success rate and in his 123 finals a 69% success rate with 84 wins and 39 losses, once said: “I’ve learned more out of my losses than I have out of my wins.” With a record like that, it doesn’t matter with what type of ball he plays with, he’s worth listening to.Tweet