pastorshark

A promising start: Sharks vs Lions


Written by Udo Lütge (pastorshark)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 3 Aug 2015 at 13:35
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My sons and I headed to Woodburn Stadium on Friday night, together with half the district, curious about many of the new faces in the Sharks jersey. We were hoping to see some promising signs from the Sharks before the start of a brand new Currie Cup season… and we were not disappointed.

But before I get to the rugby, I must say this: it was truly wonderful to be able to watch the Sharks play at Woodburn again. The Stadium only has a capacity of about 12 000 and, while the grass embankments were about half full, the grandstand was pretty packed – I estimate that there were about 7 000 spectators…and for a VERY chilly winter’s evening, that was not half bad. What made the experience at Woodburn so enjoyable was that, sitting on the grandstand, you had current and former Sharks players and administrators all around you. There were no fancy suites and the informal mingling between fans and the people directly involved at our Union was such a pleasure to experience.

But I digress – and so: to the rugby! We got to our seats about a minute after kick-off and were treated to some very enterprising play right from the start. I am not going to write a detailed description of the game itself – that can be read on other sites (if you have a look at the comment thread of the game itself you will find some links to those sort of write-ups). I do want to reflect on what I saw though. And the best place to start is the very beginning. Both the Sharks and the Lions came to Maritzburg intent to play an enterprising game. Kickable penalty after kickable penalty was kicked to the corners. For the first 10 minutes the Sharks looked very good – they were sharp, they came up with some enterprising moves and, when the Lions countered, the defence was very pleasing. The first few meaningful attacks were good to see, but our usual problem of finishing reared its head pretty much immediately and remained a problem for the entire first half. Some of you commented at that stage that you were hearing “same old, same old” and complained about the knocks and the lineout issues…and it was pretty much like that. Some good hands created space, we were held up in the corner, the ball came out quickly enough and was spread the other way…until Oosthuizen knocked on. Chance gone! We kicked a penalty to the corner…great attacking opportunity…until the lineout throw went well over the head of the jumper. As the first half went on, the frustration in the crowd grew as such missed opportunities increased and there was a real concern that the Lions would run away with things. On the flip side, we did set up more phases, our recycling was better and our scrum was relatively solid.

Let me summarise the performance of the first half as I saw it.

1. There was positive intent – and the ball was not just thrown around willy nilly; we saw some intelligent moves and good hands by most of the backs.

2. The ball was hardly kicked in general play in the first half (in fact, in the whole game), except for the odd attacking chip kick and one or two up and unders. I don’t think Michael Claassens kicked a single ball.

3. Overall, the passing was good and accurate. There was one superb long pass by Andre Esterhuizen to put Charlie Mayeza in at the corner.

4. The one on one defence was very good. I hardly saw a missed tackle, though the wings, Izaacs and Mayeza did look a bit suspect in this regard. The midfield defence and defence around the fringes was excellent. The one concern about our defensive system is that the Lions twice created space out wide for their wings to score without a hand being laid on them. The third Lions try out wide in the first half was the result of a missed tackle.

5. Our scrums were reasonable in the first half. Chadwick and Adriaanse didn’t look hugely impressive in the scrums but they just about held their own and we weren’t subjected to the sight of a rapidly retreating Sharks scrum (which was rather novel against these Lions props).

6. The lineouts were rather concerning in the first half, as we missed several on our own throw. It seemed to me that the problems was with the calling or communication, as this area improved markedly in the second half when Pieter-Steph du Toit was on the field. From that I conclude that the blame can probably not placed at Hadebe’s door alone. In fact, once during the first half we lost a lineout that ended up going over the top because not a single Sharks player jumped! That area has to be sorted out, especially as I don’t think we will be able to count on PSdT playing much Currie Cup rugby.

7. It was a bit difficult to see exactly what was going on at the breakdown without the luxury of replays. We didn’t concede very many turnovers in general play, but managed to win quite a few, so that was good. I didn’t see much of Majola, but he did seem to disrupt the Lions a few times. Philip van der Walt had a solid first outing and we saw a lot of him in the tackle area and at the breakdown (though his red hair may have helped with that). In the first half, Jean-Luc du Preez wasn’t very prominent, though that was probably because of the role he played at 7. In the second half he was much more prominent when he was shifted to 8.

8. Michael Claassens was very solid at scrumhalf and showed us that he has a good pass and clears the ball nice and quickly at the base. He wasn’t very flashy, but just maybe that is good thing! He certainly didn’t make any bloopers, so I am happy to put a tick next to his name.

9. Joe Pietersen was ok at flyhalf. He scored the first try. Some of the write-ups describe him as putting in a deft grubber, but that is a bit misleading. The Lions won their own lineout ball and passed it to Mnisi as first receiver. The pass was low, he stumbled in trying to pick it up and the ball popped up out of his hands. Pietersen kicked it through, the ball bounced up nicely into his hands and he was in under the posts. It was good work, but opportunistic. The rest of his game was a bit difficult to evaluate. He didn’t make any obvious errors, but also didn’t do much to catch the eye. His distribution was good but he did get held up a few times in the tackle.

10. The centres defended well. Both Esterhuizen and Jordaan put in some good hits, with Esterhuizen especially monstering a few of the Lions players. Esterhuizen put in that pearler of a pass and his distribution in general looked good. He didn’t bash it up too often, but when he did he took some stopping. He was the most impressive centre on the night and didn’t drop any balls. Jordaan was ok. He tackled well and showed good hands a few times, but otherwise had a relatively quiet game. I spoke to him briefly afterwards and he said, “It was ok…not great, but ok…” and I think that is about spot on for him. He did say, though, that he is very happy to be back on the rugby field and it was good to see him there.

11. The wings in the first half would probably not have done enough to force their way into our starting lineup. Mayeza scored a very good try, getting over in the corner despite having much work to do. Izaacs doesn’t look like the smallest wing, but he didn’t do much. He looked a little suspect on defence and made a mistake or two on attack, though he did put in one nice run.

12. SP was…well, SP I suppose. He showed some good touches, made one great break, was more solid under the high ball than he has been in recent times…but there was also the odd frustrating moment – running a million miles sideways on one occasion didn’t endear him to the crowd. All in all he would probably have earned a 6 out of 10 for that performance, so it is a reasonable start to the season for him.

We were down 12-21 at half time and we deserved to be so. The Lions showed pace on the outside and most of what has helped them to perform so well over the last 12 months. The Sharks, of course, changed just about their whole line-up at half-time. Monde Hadebe stayed on at hooker and Jean-Luc du Preez moved from 7 to 8. Other than that, the whole side was replaced. I didn’t see Wiehan Hay in the second half, but heard that he had come on as a first-half substitute for a while. I missed that so unfortunately can’t tell you more about who he replaced and what the reasons were.

My excitement for the season ahead – and I was excited by what I saw on Friday night – stems from the second half performance. I said in the comments on the night that this second group of players showed far more urgency than the first. The ball in hand approach continued, the good defence was even more impressive and the Sharks pretty much completely dominated the second 40. At one stage the Lions even departed from the policy of kicking for the corner and took a shot at posts to try and put some daylight between them and an ever more dominant Sharks side.

My comments about the second half look like this:

1. I was most excited by what I saw from our very young front row! This was the first time I saw young Juan Schoeman…and what I saw makes me wonder how the hell the Bulls let him go. I think we have made a very good signing there! Both he and Thomas du Toit were prominent in the loose and tight-loose exchanges, they put in some good tackles and both broke the Lions line on more than one occasion. Their carries around the fringes caught the eye! I kept a close eye on the scrums and for the first 20 minutes of the second half they held their own…and for the last 20 minutes they absolutely monstered the Lions scrum! It was a pleasure to behold…but I must confess that I don’t know exactly what the cause of the dominance in the last quarter was. It could have been the fact that the Lions replaced their props and that our two youngsters completely dominated the replacement. I suspect, though, that the truly dominant phase towards the end coincided with the replacement of Monde Hadebe. As far as I can tell, Franco Marais was not there and Hadebe was replaced by Gerhard Engelbrecht…can that be? Whatever the case was, after that replacement we were completely dominant at scrum time.

2. The second thing that every spectator and his dog could clearly see, was how much we will miss PSdT when he is fit to play. My word, the boy can play this game. He took charge of the lineouts and the change from the first half was total. He was all over the place in general play, made line breaks, showed deft touches in the offload and dominated his opponents. His defence was rock solid and on one occasion he put in a try-saving tackle when the Lions had a 2-on-1 and he was the last defender. I know this won’t be that popular on here, but I really will miss him, I am sad to see him go and I was actually quite proud to see how many of the spectators shared kind words with him after the game and wished him all the best for the future. I had a short chat with him and he was appreciative of the supporters and struck me as a humble, down to earth good oke. I hate the fact that he is off to those guys down south…but I am glad I got to see him play in a Sharks jersey one more time.

3. The loose trio also impressed with some good carries and strong defence. Du Preez was prominent at 8 and Kleynhans and McDuling did some good work. I didn’t see many turnovers in the second half, but then again, the Lions hardly had any ball in the second half!

4. Ungerer was also very impressive. His passing game is probably not quite that of Classens, but he showed some good touches, made electric breaks – one was especially impressive and only last ditch defence kept and 5mm or so kept the Sharks from scoring!

5. Cronje was ok…my comments about him are probably similar to those about Pietersen. He didn’t kick much, except for attacking chips; his distribution was quite good; he made two nice breaks…but sometimes he got caught with the ball and on one occasion at least, he was a bit slow.

6. The centres did their job. They tackled well, they showed some good touches. Although he put in one or two HUGE hits, Mjekevu didn’t necessarily convince me that he is a 13. He overran the attacker on at least two occasions and I don’t know whether his running lines are what they should be. He did do one or two things that stood out, though, so I would like to see more of him. I would also like to see him on the wing, seeing as some of our wings didn’t do much to convince me that they are the real deal.

7. Speaking of the wings, Odwa was his usual solid self…but it was Sburra Sithole who continued to impress. Everyone in the crowd enjoyed him putting one Lions defender squarely on his backside when he bumped him off…and he scored what was ultimately the winning try (after another commanding scrum and a good pass by Ungerer) with a superb finish!

8. At fullback Garth April didn’t really impress and I don’t think he will displace SP…but he deserves more chances than just this one I reckon.

The second half, though, was about more than just individual performances – there was an urgency, there was a continuity and what I can only describe as “gelling” that I haven’t seen in a while from a Sharks side…and there was a dominance of the Lions that was beautiful to watch.

I know this write-up has been quite long already, but there is one more aspect I would like to report. After the game the players were available to chat, sign autographs, take photos…and it was a wonderful experience for my boys (and for me, to be honest!). The guys really took time for everyone there and the crowd loved it!

Well done, Sharks! I hope the Woodburn thing happens again soon…and I wish you all the best for the Currie Cup. I am certainly looking forward to it. Keep building on this…



44 Comments

  • Wow – what an awesome write-up. Thanks Pastor!

  • Comment 1, posted at 03.08.15 13:36:26 by robdylan Reply
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  • That’s a serious write up man, well done.

    Was great to have the Sharks host the Lions here in PMB. The night was very cold guys, my toes felt like it was in ice cubes.
    Sorry about my phone not linking up with Youlive guys. I am still having trouble as we speak to login again. Not sure what happened.

  • Comment 2, posted at 03.08.15 13:46:02 by Uli Boelie Reply
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  • @Uli Boelie (Comment 2) : did you manage to record any footage?

  • Comment 3, posted at 03.08.15 13:58:43 by robdylan Reply
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  • Awesome write-up. Exactly the sort of insight I was hoping for. Thanks Pastor. I wish Lewies wasn’t out injured.

  • Comment 4, posted at 03.08.15 14:30:52 by vanmartin Reply
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  • Yes a very good write up, covering the nitty gritty.

  • Comment 5, posted at 03.08.15 14:32:55 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 5) : so are you keen for the quiz?

  • Comment 6, posted at 03.08.15 14:35:01 by robdylan Reply
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  • BTW, Pastor, good catch re the hooker situation. Frank apparently had a niggle, so didn’t play. Pretty likely Engelbrecht will have gone on for Monde in the second half.

  • Comment 7, posted at 03.08.15 14:48:49 by robdylan Reply
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  • Thanx for the article. Well done and sounds as if you enjoyed it very much!!!!

  • Comment 8, posted at 03.08.15 14:49:13 by JD Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : that’s going to be a problem for the Sharks as none of the current crop really looks the part!!!!!! Just hope they improve before next year!!!!

  • Comment 9, posted at 03.08.15 14:51:16 by JD Reply
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  • Definitely some promising aspects but lineouts and handling a serious concern going into game against the Pumas. That Pumas side is def no joke.

  • Comment 10, posted at 03.08.15 14:53:21 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @robdylan (Comment 3) : unfortunately not, I had a Lions supporter right next to me who I had to keep educating about the game.

  • Comment 11, posted at 03.08.15 15:26:22 by Uli Boelie Reply
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  • Thanks for the detailed write up, sounds promising indeed.

  • Comment 12, posted at 03.08.15 15:32:19 by stevovo Reply
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  • Great article. I enjoyed the analysis.

  • Comment 13, posted at 03.08.15 15:36:55 by StevieS Reply
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  • @Uli Boelie (Comment 11) : via the occasional flattie to the back of the head?

  • Comment 14, posted at 03.08.15 15:37:48 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Uli Boelie (Comment 11) : Was his name Cecil by any chance? #toosoon?

  • Comment 15, posted at 03.08.15 15:40:03 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @Uli Boelie (Comment 11) : Mighty decent of you Uli.

  • Comment 16, posted at 03.08.15 15:40:18 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 15) : ouch

  • Comment 17, posted at 03.08.15 15:45:32 by robdylan Reply
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  • Was a great game to be at, so glad i went along, despite the freezing weather.

  • Comment 18, posted at 03.08.15 16:05:23 by jonnow Reply

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  • Pleasure guys…although I just picked up that in my haste I wrote “…the problems was…” :oops: Apologies for that! Just excuse any grammar and spelling mistakes and chalk it down to the fact that I had no time to read the finished article through again!

  • Comment 19, posted at 03.08.15 16:06:19 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Just heard that Pollard seems to be an injury doubt for Saturday, and then very sadly that Frans Steyn has been released from the squad due to his brothers death.

  • Comment 20, posted at 03.08.15 16:08:56 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : Aha…I had little chance to gauge Engelbrecht at lineout time, but he looked a solid unit and at scrum time he was certainly a factor that led to the switch to “crunch time” in the scrums. It sent a tingle down my spine to see us crunch the Lions scrum quite so badly! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 21, posted at 03.08.15 16:09:30 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 20) : That is terrible news…about Frans Steyn, I mean. Condolences to him and the family!

  • Comment 22, posted at 03.08.15 16:10:24 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Uli Boelie (Comment 2) : @jonnow (Comment 18) : Maar jinne…it was cold. In the first half it was a bit fresh, but in the second half it was positively polar!!!

  • Comment 23, posted at 03.08.15 16:12:25 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Nice one Pastor. Sounds like you had a blast.

  • Comment 24, posted at 03.08.15 16:15:57 by Ben Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 6) : : Im thinking it over, I would like to do it but Im worried that I might not be able to make it into Town by the start time.

  • Comment 25, posted at 03.08.15 16:18:22 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • I wonder if our coaches are brave enough to start the young front row, I doubt it but would be awesome if they did.

  • Comment 26, posted at 03.08.15 16:20:03 by Seth101 Reply
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  • @Seth101 (Comment 26) : As you read, I am excited by their performance…though I do think that coming up against the Pumas away will probably be a very stern test. They will probably go with Thomas, Chadwick and Adriaanse, though I really hope Schoeman gets a lot of game time. I’d love to see a TV game with him in the scrum to really get a proper look at him…

  • Comment 27, posted at 03.08.15 16:23:34 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Great write-up. Pastor – you related to Headmaster Bernd by any chance?

    Really sad about Frans Steyn’s loss – God be with him and his family.

  • Comment 28, posted at 03.08.15 16:25:02 by Big Fish Reply
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  • Pastoeshark, did PSdT confirm to you that he is going to WP?

  • Comment 29, posted at 03.08.15 16:30:10 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 28) : I am…he is my cousin! :lol:

  • Comment 30, posted at 03.08.15 16:34:57 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 29) : He didn’t…but I also didn’t ask…

  • Comment 31, posted at 03.08.15 16:35:52 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Mjekevu is HUGE. He’s tall enough to play lock. Sbura looked like a kid standing next to him.

  • Comment 32, posted at 03.08.15 17:56:12 by woody Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 30) :
    Cool! :lol:

  • Comment 33, posted at 03.08.15 19:01:06 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 19) : grammer schmammer as I see it (same goes for spelling)………. until my wife catch me!!!!!

  • Comment 34, posted at 03.08.15 20:32:35 by JD Reply
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  • @woody (Comment 32) : he would be one hell of a fast lock!!!!!!

  • Comment 35, posted at 03.08.15 20:36:10 by JD Reply
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  • Very sad to hear the news about Frans’s brother!!! Our prayers are with him and his familie during this sad time!!!!

  • Comment 36, posted at 03.08.15 20:39:17 by JD Reply
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  • I am so looking forward to CC season and hope full that we see some great running rugby.

  • Comment 37, posted at 03.08.15 21:00:49 by KILLER SHARK Reply
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  • @KILLER SHARK (Comment 37) : ja must say I’m also hoping to see the Sharks run with the ball!!!!

  • Comment 38, posted at 03.08.15 22:52:29 by JD Reply
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  • Thanks for the great write-up!!!

  • Comment 39, posted at 04.08.15 00:09:50 by Den Reply

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  • Sounds like a few of this type of friendly would be good pre season prep. Wonder why we don’t have a proper preseason? Even if only for our younger guys when the others are tied up in other derbies?

  • Comment 40, posted at 04.08.15 07:58:14 by coolfusion Reply

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  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 20) : Sad news :( . Praying that the family finds comfort in what must be a really trying time.

  • Comment 41, posted at 04.08.15 08:41:27 by vanmartin Reply
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  • Very sad news about Fran Steyn’s brother. Condolences go out the Steyn family.

  • Comment 42, posted at 04.08.15 10:34:46 by GreatSharksays Reply

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  • PSDT is going to be a rugby great. Real pity he left us. That guy is going to single handedly win games for WP. Lucky them.

  • Comment 43, posted at 04.08.15 10:36:09 by GreatSharksays Reply

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  • @vanmartin (Comment 41) : @GreatSharksays (Comment 42) : My heart goes out to the family. I wish them strength and comfort, good people for support and, along this difficult road, some peace…

  • Comment 44, posted at 04.08.15 21:01:29 by pastorshark Reply
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