It didn’t take long for the Sharks to react to a few, um, “less than stellar” scrummaging performances in this year’s Currie Cup. Former Sharks scrum coach Balie Swart – incidentally a World Cup winner just like CEO John Smit and Director of Rugby Brendan Venter – will spend time with the pack this week attempting to shed some light on some of the interpretation issues that have blighted them thus far in the competition.
The new scrum engagement sequence appears to have caused problems for players and referees alike since its introduction a few weeks back and while the Sharks felt they did well under Jason Jafta in Bloemfontein a fortnight ago (incidentally, the same ref who oversaw their demolition at the hands of the Griquas pack a fortnight earlier), the old woes resurfaced under Jonathan Kaplan’s somewhat fickle whistle in Durban on Saturday. Dale Chadwick’s yellow card, which fortunately caused little overall harm, will have been the tipping point.
Swart, if I remember correctly, presided over a period of real Sharks scrum dominance during the median years of the last decade – helping to unearth the likes of BJ Botha, Deon Carstens and more latterly Beast Mtawarira and turn all three into potent scrum exponents. He played a big role under Dick Muir, but seemed to fade into obscurity under John Plumtree; no announcement was ever made regarding his departure, but before we knew it, he had cropped up in Lions colours, a sure indication that his Sharks days were over. Etienne Fynn, meanwhile, has done a very good job himself, but it surely must be very difficult for him to concentrate on roles as both head coach of the so-far successful Sharks under 21 side and scrum coach of the seniors.
One thing the Sharks surely must look at, though, is rotation at loose head prop. While Wiehahn Herbst and Rayno Gerber have shared the load on the right hand side of the scrum, The erstwhile Chadwick has soldiered through 80 minutes of every game so far and while nobody is doubting the fitness or workrate of the former Westville boy, only the most fervent admirers would be able to claim his scrum performances have been anything more than barely adequate. Danie Mienie is a player who has come up through the ranks and even earned a Super Rugby cap – albeit for just a few minutes – and the time must surely have come to throw him into the same deep end that the likes of Fred Zeilinga and Heimar Williams now paddle about with consummate ease.Tweet