Are we being overly pessimistic?

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super 14 on 18 Mar 2008 at 14:29

I think that as Sharks fans (well, most of us, anyway), we need to always remember to count our blessings.

try time put up an article this morning that was perceived as being very negative. I don’t feel that his intention was to break the Sharks down in any way, but rather to offer constructive criticism and a dose of realism regarding where we are right now. Michael Marnewick put up a piece on the official Sharks site this morning that presented seemingly a completely different picture of the season thus far. Who is right? Or is it a case of the truth lying somewhere in between, as always?

Let’s start by looking a some facts.

1) The Sharks are unbeaten. That’s right – in every single one of the five games we have played, we have emerged with more points than the opposition. This includes wins over the Bulls (remember, they won last year) and the Blues (last year’s 4th-placed team). The only other team int he tournament that is currently unbeaten is the Crusaders.
2) The Sharks have not scored huge number of tries so far and have notched up a four-try bonus point in only one of the five games played to date. The Crusaders have scored the required four tries in four of their five matches to date, leaving them with a three-point lead over the Sharks at the top of the log.
3) The Sharks are in second position on the log! The next-best placed SA team is the Stormers in 7th place. They have already lost three games, as have the Bulls. The Lions have lost four and the Cheetahs haven’t won a single game in five outings to date.
4) The Sharks have the best defensive record in the competition, having let in only 5 tries at an average of one a game. Compare that to the Cheetahs, who may have scored a few more than we have, but have conceded 22 in the process.

The Crusaders have been handed a beautiful draw this year. Their only potentially tough away matches were against the Bulls (which they won easily), the Force (which they won, despite some initial jitters) and the Hurricanes (which they have not yet played). They play all the other front-runners (Sharks, Blues and Waratahs) at home. These guys are seriously well-placed to go through the round-robin stage unbeaten. The Sharks, in contrast, have a tour from hell. We have five tough away games still to come on tour (although realistically we should expect to stuff both the Highlanders and the Brumbies wherever we play them this year) as well as a derby match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. We will need to win at least 4 of those away games to stand any chance of a home semi final. To finish top, either we need to win all of them, or we need somebody else to do us a favour and beat the Crusaders.

Quite honestly, it ain’t gonna happen. You can blame the draw, which is in this case a valid thing to do, but the Sharks are not likely to finish in first place this year. In order to stand any realistic chance of doing that, we would have needed to be at least 2 or 3 points better off on the log that we are now.

This, I feel, is why some degree of negativity on the part of the fans is justified. We came so close last year, fought so hard to host the final, only to lose it in the dying seconds. What hope do we honestly have of going one better this year if we are forced to trek to Jade for a final? Worse, what if we end up traveling for the semi as well?

That said, we need to keep perspective here. We are not letting in a lot of tries and there’s no reason to think that that factor will change in coming weeks. The team will only get better defensively as the season progresses. How exactly are we expecting any team (and this includes the Crusaders) to beat us if we don’t let them score tries? Let’s be brutally honest here – if this Sharks team clicks and plays their best game for 80 minutes, the Crusaders won’t be able to live with them. That’s right – I feel we have fewer individual stars, but a far better 22 overall than they do and I don’t for an instant believe that we won’t be able to beat them in Christchurch if we play to our strengths.

So let’s count our blessings, shall we? We haven’t tasted defeat yet this year and God willing, we won’t know what that is like for a good few weeks yet. The team is growing in confidence and there are plenty guys pushing hard for selection. I mean, all that is really concerning us at this stage is how best to rearrange the backline to maximise the attacking potential. Other SA teams are worrying about where the hell they are going to find a fit flyhalf, fullback or set of wings that is in any way good enough to be playing at this level. All of the overseas teams have shown glaring signs of weakness that we can exploit and even the Saders are fallible. Let’s go and get them.

Love them or fear them – Sharks forever!


  • not too pessimistic, more worried that we aren’t learning from our mistakes and will have to listen to people call the team chokers for yet another season.

  • Comment 1, posted at 18.03.08 14:39:34 by try time Reply
  • here is a thought though. the sharks can throw the chiefs game and send the a team over to nz/aus a week early leaving a b team to play the chiefs. this will only work though if no other sa team makes the play offs.

  • Comment 2, posted at 18.03.08 14:44:36 by try time Reply
  • the extra week will give them the time to train and recover from jet lag.

  • Comment 3, posted at 18.03.08 14:45:25 by try time Reply
  • this will only work though if no other sa team makes the play offs


  • Comment 4, posted at 18.03.08 14:47:59 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • because if a sa team makes the playoffs and manages a top two we may very well have to play them at home. and with our team sitting in nz/aus we would have egg on our face.

  • Comment 5, posted at 18.03.08 14:59:15 by try time Reply

  • oh – I see what you mean.

    Yeah, that could be a bit silly 😉

  • Comment 6, posted at 18.03.08 15:00:09 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • our good defensive record and our poor try scoring rate are not independant of one another.

    we moan about conditions being the cause for us not getting 4 tries, but then again, the team we play against must also play in those conditions. so if we use the “conditions” excuse we must then factor it into our defensive record too.

  • Comment 7, posted at 18.03.08 15:18:40 by knersboy Reply

  • I think MM’s and TT’s articles were more similar than people think…the difference is the other comes from “the official sharksrugby” perspective and the other from “a regular fan speaking his mind”.

    I’m not in anyway trying to accuse MM of sugar-coating anything…and neither am I saying TT was overly-critical. Both articles agreed on the 2 facts.

    1. We have won all our games and find ourselves sitting at a healthy position 2.

    2. We haven’t played to the best of our ability and we need to step up our game…or we might be punished by more clinical opposition.

    The only difference I picked up was in the writing styles / tones.

    KNERSBOY – if we didn’t play those conditions BETTER than our opposition we would all get the same points…meaning our games would end in draws.

    The defensive edge is stressed because we’ve managed to outscore the opposition in all our games. But we are critising the OFFENSIVE side because deep down we know we could’ve done better.

  • Comment 8, posted at 18.03.08 15:27:23 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • oh with regards to my idea of throwing the chiefs game. if we have a home semi and have to fly to nz for the final we will have no chance, that is why maybe playing the semi and final in nz/aus would be a better option as we would add a week to climatize.

  • Comment 9, posted at 18.03.08 15:39:23 by try time Reply

  • but if we play a semi in nz we might not have a final to play anyway…i think id take a home semi with the jet lag

  • Comment 10, posted at 18.03.08 16:26:03 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!
  • yup – agreed.

  • Comment 11, posted at 18.03.08 16:28:23 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • yeah blackshark i realise that if we did not play the conditions better then we would not have won, no brainer really. what i am trying to say is that we can’t gloat about our defensive record and moan about our attacking record (using the excuse of the conditions).

    It stands to reason that if the conditions we have played in are one of the reasons we have not scored many tries, well then the same holds for our opposition. sure they lose, but they score less tries losing than they normally would.

    so are we, in fact, a better defensive unit than the crusaders because we have let in fewer tries?

  • Comment 12, posted at 18.03.08 18:02:10 by knersboy Reply

  • I have taken some vast leaps of logic in the above…

    A team could have the best defensive record in the tournament and still not win any games, particularly if they’re not scoring tries themselves.

  • Comment 13, posted at 18.03.08 18:25:28 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • indeed robd.

    enjoy your evening, i am outa here. my old ladies brother got his masters degree today so we are going out for dinner, woo hoo!

  • Comment 14, posted at 18.03.08 18:34:44 by knersboy Reply

  • have a lovely evening, dude.

  • Comment 15, posted at 18.03.08 18:58:43 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • I get your point kners…

    I was not in anyway suggesting that we’ve got the best defensive unit…the number of tries we’ve conceeded doesn’t cloud my vision at all because there’s that little matter of us not scoring enough tries at the other end.

    But comparing US to US…our defence needs less work than our offence…hope that’s clearer. 😎

  • Comment 16, posted at 19.03.08 09:06:17 by blackshark Reply

    blackshark - I'm back!

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