Rule number 1: Don’t Panic!

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 27 Sep 2010 at 06:00
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I guess this article could easily have been called “pride comes before a fall”. That’s right, I’ll admit it. I underestimated the Lions and was pretty darn arrogant in the lead-up to Saturday’s match. Called a win by 15 points, as you may recall. Oops!

Well, as it turned out, the Lions, by means both foul and fair, walked away with the points and John Mitchell, for the first time in quite a while, managed to get his mitts on the famed Hawera Cup. The home side played their hearts out and on the balance of probability, deserved to sneak home, regardless of how many dodgy tries were scored in the process! They’re a fine side, these Lions and we need to give them their due. Under Mitchell, the days when opposing teams can routinely expect to bag a victory – or even five points – in Johannesburg would appear to be over. Good work, Lions, but you’re still a few points shy of where you need to be. Perhaps, if you can make it through, we may get another crack at you in the semi. That one won’t be Johannesburg, though, you can count on it.

What about the Sharks, though? Pretty simply put, they were rubbish. Far too many influential players, including regular stars like Willem Alberts, Pat Lambie, Ryan Kankowski and Craig Burden, were simply not there and the result was palpable. Exactly the same malaise that affected the team against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria a few weeks ago was back in evidence and the Sharks’ inability to build up a sizeable lead in the first half – despite enjoying 70%+ possession – ended up costing them dearly as the Highveld took its toll in the second period. It’s a problem and it’s something that the team need to work on if they want to… no wait, hang on. We’re not playing any more games on the Highveld this Currie Cup. And that’s kind of the point of this article.

I’ve seen a lot of negative moaning, wailing and gnashing of teeth among Sharks fans ever since the final whistle blew last night, coupled with the usual garbage from the Western Province press cabal about how the Sharks are now “imploding” and their season is “all but over”. All of that, as far as I’m concerned, is utter bullshit and it’s time that Sharks fans stop being selfish prima donnas for a little bit and just look at the facts of the situation.

Point 1 is that we lost an away game, in the Currie Cup, against another top 5 team in good form. That’s ok… in fact, it should probably be expected. The Cheetahs also lost to the Lions away, so did Western Province. Province, as you may recall, got smacked by 20 points at Coke Park. We went down there, played utter shit for most of the match and only lost out to a dubious try in injury time. We chucked away three clear tries and at least 10 other points in missed kicks. Could have been a different game if one bounce had gone the other way. Point 2 is that despite now having exactly the same win-loss ratio as Province, we are a full game’s worth of points ahead of them on the log. All Super 14 long we bitched and moaned about the Sharks not scoring bonus points. We have now picked up 11 of them in 12 games. Maybe, just maybe, we could stop moaning long enough to appreciate that fact.

Let’s move on to point 3. We have to beat the Leopards, with a bonus point, to ensure that we finish no lower than second. We are, by the way, the only team that is guaranteed a semi-final spot with two rounds left to play. Put yourself in the shoes of a Province supporter. They might be in pretty good form at the moment (when they’re not conceding 5 tries in 40 minutes to Griquas), but they have the worst possible run up to the semis, with the Bulls away and the Sharks at home. They need to beat both teams, on successive weekends, with a bonus point, to ensure top spot. In fact, it’s worse than that, because even if they do get a bonus point against the Sharks, they need to ensure that we don’t get 2 bonus points ourselves out of that game. Now I know a lot of (supposed) Sharks fans have already written off our chances of beating Province at Newlands because they will supposedly be at full strength again. Memories are short, though, since the Sharks handled a full-strength Stormers side quite comfortably in the Super 14. Anyway ,I digress a little, but the point is, anyone who feels that Province now have top spot completely sewn up as a result of the Sharks loss is getting ahead of themselves. Sure, we’ve given them a sniff (and more of a sniff than I’d have liked), but it’s not like we’ve handed it to them on a plate.

There’s a fourth point here – one which I feel is pretty crucial. I’ve noticed a pretty interesting pattern over the last few weeks, with the big teams paying each other, often back to back. These derbies are played with furious intensity and I think we shouldn’t underestimate the toll – both physical and mental – that is taken on the players each week. The Cheetahs got themselves up for a huge home derby against the Bulls, which they only narrowly won. They were finished by the time they got to Durban the next week and couldn’t pull off another win. The Sharks, though, played their guts out in that performance and were then flat against the Lions. After not managing to beat the Cheetahs, the Bulls got themselves up against the Lions. The Lions had enough left in the tank to take the Sharks. There’s a real pattern developing here, with none of the big teams able to pull off two successive victories over big five opposition. Those in between matches against the minnows seem to create a much-needed chance to recharge, which is exactly the reason the Cheetahs should probably take the Lions this coming weekend. Province and the Bulls will both be rested before they take on each other, but if Province do manage to win that game, they’ll need to find huge reserves in order to lift themselves again the following week against the Sharks. The latter, we must emphasise, should be coming off a far easier game against the Leopards.

I guess what I’m saying here is: Don’t Panic, Sharks fans! We were all very keen for a win against the Lions, but in hindsight, we took them too lightly and it wasn’t to be. We are still well on top, in the driving seat and our destiny is in our own hands. Let’s just concentrate on that, take what positives we can and move on. Now is not the time to start picking the team apart. Remember, support is about being their through good times and bad and you simply can’t win every game. I’d far rather lose to the Lions in an ultimately meaningless round robin fixture, than cruise to the top of the table and lose in the semi…


  • Winning teams this coming weekend:

  • Comment 1, posted at 27.09.10 07:04:30 by Jarson Reply
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  • So what you are saying is: If we manage to win WP at Newlands then we are going to lose in the Semi because we cant manage to beat 2 big 5 unions in a row 😉

  • Comment 2, posted at 27.09.10 07:07:41 by Jarson Reply
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  • Nice article Rob and congrats to the Lions!

  • Comment 3, posted at 27.09.10 07:21:03 by vanmartin Reply
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  • The Sharks have really struggled at altitude this season and it might be due to our “all action” gameplan where the team drops off in the second half. Also, Johannesburg is always a very difficult place for the Sharks to win at, we did not beat the Lions there in the Currie cup between 1996 and 2008. So, in a nutshell, why the hell were you so confident, Rob ❓

  • Comment 4, posted at 27.09.10 07:25:56 by war1 Reply
  • who is panicking? i wanted the sharks to lose this game. it has meant they now have two must win games to come so they won’t get complacent and will go into the playoffs in the right frame of mind. had they lost to stormers (which would be very likely if they have already secured the home final)they would be going into the playoffs in the wrong frame of mind. this loss has now meant the sharks can build up week on week with each game more important against stronger and stronger opposition. and the currie cup will be ours as we will have peaked at the right time. and how great to have the cc on our 20th anniversary of winning the trophy.

  • Comment 5, posted at 27.09.10 07:50:49 by try time Reply

  • War, it’s cos I listened to the podcast! Every other expert on that call predicted an easy sharks win. Actually, no. Letgo said if we make mistakes, the Lions will beat us. Listen to HER next time.

  • Comment 6, posted at 27.09.10 07:54:08 by robdylan Reply
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  • rob, didn’t you call me a gromit for wanting a lions win? 😆 but in this article you are agreeing with my reasoning. the sharks are a team that need wake up calls. but they only succeed if the wake up calls are at the right time. and the lions game was the best time possible.

  • Comment 7, posted at 27.09.10 07:55:50 by try time Reply

  • Good arti Rob. Have to agree with your points there. Can just keep supporting The Boys. I’ll take this loss, rather than cruising through and then not pitching up for the semi 😕 😕 😕 Go Sharks 😀

  • Comment 8, posted at 27.09.10 07:58:33 by SharksRTB Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 6) : he he, yeah, she was right

  • Comment 9, posted at 27.09.10 08:05:32 by war1 Reply
  • one warning bell that started ringing louder on saturday is the sharks lack of a decent backline coach. look at the difference carlos spencer has made to the lions backs, while we sit with a backline that has the imagination of hugh reece edwards. lambie is not improving as we were hoping and was outplayed by jantjies. both players are on a par, but elton has been improving with better coaching.

  • Comment 10, posted at 27.09.10 08:17:20 by try time Reply

  • @try time (Comment 10) : ❓

  • Comment 11, posted at 27.09.10 08:19:18 by war1 Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 6) : @war1 (Comment 9) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 12, posted at 27.09.10 08:31:50 by Letgo Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 6) :

    Ahem, correction.

    Point was made if the Sharks click as a team, they will give them a hiding, you made the point that the Sharks have to play really badly, and the Lions really well to lose.

    Checkmark against both points, don’t be so hard on yourself.

  • Comment 13, posted at 27.09.10 08:45:25 by Morné Reply
  • Rob’s right – we were rubbish. Slow ball, bad option-taking, indiscipline, poor kicking, poor first time defense, etc.

    In comparison the Lions played probably their best game of the year. But we helped them massively in their endeavours.

    We were way too loose, which was exactly the wrong strategy against the Lions whose man-on-man speed in the backline is, with the exeption of Mvovo, far superior to ours.

    Another thing that was far superior was the Lions defense. With the amount of possession we had we did very little and when it was our turn to defend we missed a far higher percentage of tackles compared to our opponents.

    Jano Vermaak stopping Pat Cilliers charging for the line at full tilt, Doppies ripping the ball from Burden on the line and Alberts getting bundled unceremoniously into touch at the corner flag summed it all up.

    On another day it could have been different, but it would have lulled us into a false sense of accomplishment, so probably a blessing that we didn’t pull it off.

  • Comment 14, posted at 27.09.10 08:46:09 by rhineshark Reply
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  • Good motivational speech Rob!

    And if you remember my previous article, we already secured more points than I gave us credit for so we should be in good shape to hold on to our lead.

    I`m just concerned about what happens then.
    If the Lions can sneak past the bulls it would be great for us. I think in Dbn we`ll take them.
    But if we face the bulls with all those bokke . . .
    Remember wp and bulls will only improve from now on, sharks seem to be losing players hand over fist.

  • Comment 15, posted at 27.09.10 08:49:16 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @rhineshark (Comment 14) : @Original Pierre (Comment 15) :

    Something I picked up over the weekend, the Sharks are one of the few teams with limited strike runners as outside backs, Mvovo excluded of course…

    Talk about converting chances into points, I think this is where a big part of this problem lies.

  • Comment 16, posted at 27.09.10 08:51:48 by Morné Reply
  • Rob, this article may rival some of Morne’s as longest soliloquy ever posted on Sharksworld. Good one nonetheless though..

    To lose top of the log from here is going to take some doing. A home Semi against the Lions or Cheetahs, I reckon. Followed by a Final against Problems or Bulle at the Sharktank.

  • Comment 17, posted at 27.09.10 08:54:32 by Oubaas2009 Reply

  • @war1 (Comment 11) : our backline is only looking better because for once in a long time we have a scrumhalf that plays what is called and gets good ball to the backs. but our backs (lambie especially) isn’t using that ball as well as he could. in comparison the lions backs used everything they got well. and jantjies is definitely looking the better of the two tens. and i feel this is largely due to carlos spencer. we have hugh reece helping our guys and he isn’t of the same calibre. but ours are good enough to win the cc, but it is something that will need to be worked on in the off season.

  • Comment 18, posted at 27.09.10 08:55:26 by try time Reply

  • @rhineshark (Comment 14) : Agreed. WP made the same mistake against lions, going full throttle from the get go, looking for the four try bonus. There wasn`t enough structure and Lions pounced.
    Never thought I`d say this but maybe a more concervative approach would`ve been better? 🙄

  • Comment 19, posted at 27.09.10 08:57:21 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • i think ryan should get cited for throwing away great ball after the sharks built up 19 phases. he did the same against the cheetahs, wasting sharks hard work. if he is tackled he should rather recycle the ball than throw ridiculous 50 50 ball. close games boil down to little decisions like that being made correctly.

  • Comment 20, posted at 27.09.10 09:00:36 by try time Reply

  • @Original Pierre (Comment 19) : I’m with you there.

    Our run-it-from-everywhere approach is actually why we’re at the top with 11 bonus points. Calling for a more conservative game would have been the ultimate “why fix it if it aint broke” situation.

    The problem with the Sharks’ current game is that it’s high-risk, so looks and works great when everything goes according to plan, but if you don’t do it flawlessly you get punished.

    An astute coach like John Mitchell knows this. They learned from their hiding at Kings Park and knew that if they could stop us from scoring with so much possession we would throw the ball around even more – increasing the risk.

    All the Lions had to do was make sure their defense held.

    I can’t remember when last we had so many turnovers or penalties resulting from one-off runners getting isolated.

  • Comment 21, posted at 27.09.10 09:34:05 by rhineshark Reply
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  • @Morne: agree; everyone said we SHOULD win if we played at the level we had thus far. Sadly, we didn’t. Roberto is taking the mea culpa a tad too far.

    Also believe we are short of strike runners in the backs. Which is scary, considering that numbers 11, 13, 14 and possiblty even 15 should all be strike runners.

  • Comment 22, posted at 27.09.10 10:28:32 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @rhineshark (Comment 21) : “I can’t remember when last we had so many turnovers or penalties resulting from one-off runners getting isolated.” i can, everytime botes is off the field. plum hasn’t realised that he can’t have ryan and keegan on the field at the same time without a working loosie. the sharks were the same against the cheetahs. fortunately we wore them down in that game.

  • Comment 23, posted at 27.09.10 10:30:27 by try time Reply

  • Well played Sharks. 2 Dubious tries, but they cancele each other out, and Lions would still have won.
    But congratulations to the Sharks for assisting to make the game the spectacle it was. You guys say that the Sharks played badly, and that may be the case, but the Lions also played below their potential, but have you ever considered that the pressure we put on you forced you to play badly?
    Bottom line is that the Lions won. Pity Terreblanche picked up that bad injury. When Oupa left the field, the Sharks definitely lost a bit of composure.

  • Comment 24, posted at 27.09.10 12:26:25 by Lion4ever Reply

  • @Lion4ever (Comment 24) : you know what, actually, they don’t. Remember than Franco’s try was converted, whereas Mvovo’s one wasn’t.

    I would have taken 15-all as a pretty fair score 🙂

  • Comment 25, posted at 27.09.10 12:31:57 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 25) : Ja and that was the 2 point difference but be that as it may….I hope the Lions can still sneek into a semi at the expense of the Bulls. :mrgreen:

  • Comment 26, posted at 27.09.10 12:36:52 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Lion4ever (Comment 24) : but you are right… the Lions deserve HUGE credit for what they brought to the game and what they have achieve since the last time we played them. Defence, in particular, was massively improved and it forced the Sharks into errors. Competition at the breakdown was fierce and Mitchell deserved the Hawera Cup simply for outsmarting Plum in that one area. Plum got his loose forward combo 100% wrong in this game.

    Should have started with Botes at 6 and Keegan at 8, then brought on Kanko later

  • Comment 27, posted at 27.09.10 12:44:42 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 26) : if Lions make it, it will be at the expense of the Cheetahs, not the Bulls.

    Bulls are heading for a 2nd-place finish, starting with a win over Province this weekend.

  • Comment 28, posted at 27.09.10 12:46:03 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 25) : Maybe they don’t quite cancel each other out, but remember, had the Mvovo try been referred, the game would have been restarted with a Lions lineout midway between our own 22 and halfway line. Had Franco’s been referred, there would have been a Lion’s penalty almost right inb front, about 15 metres out. Despite Elton’s off-day, he would in all likelihood have got it over.

    That having been said, good game, I am glad we took it, hard luck sharks. The final difference between the two sides was, IMO, defense.

    Round 3 on 16 October?

  • Comment 29, posted at 27.09.10 13:14:29 by Greg Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 25) : Our try scorers need to be far more thoughtful and start scoring closer to the posts 😉

  • Comment 30, posted at 27.09.10 13:43:29 by lostfish Reply
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  • @try time (Comment 23) : Yes, you’re right.

    Actually, now that I think about it, we also had a lot of turnovers running from deep and the ball carrier (mostly Odwa) getting tackled. Botes is usually very good at falling back and securing the ball when this happens.

  • Comment 31, posted at 27.09.10 14:21:33 by rhineshark Reply
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  • Well like some say its good that the Sharks lost, 👿 know at least their heads can get back to normal size and consentrate on the games to follow and on home semi and final 😉

  • Comment 32, posted at 27.09.10 14:29:43 by chaz Reply

  • Rob i got to read it 😳 left it for last my friend but words spoken true we should not panic but everytime we loose a game the other teams get closer and thats what we don’t want now the margin is 4 points and if we had won most of our games i think we would of had a score of been by 60 that is if we got a bonus point with the winings so i hope with all my heart we win the next couple of game with a bonus point so at least we get home semi and then home finals thats what our Sharks fans want 🙂

  • Comment 33, posted at 27.09.10 17:01:05 by chaz Reply

  • @Greg (Comment 29) : I think they should just give us the trophy if we top the log 🙂

    I’m scared of knock-out rugby!

  • Comment 34, posted at 27.09.10 17:44:56 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 16) : this is actually true. When a break is made, the Sharks need to get it to either Kanko or Mvovo for there to be a good chance (80%) of a try resulting. There is nobody else in the side that has the pace to make those breaks count. And that is a big problem, because we’re not actually struggling to create those opportunities. We’re just not finishing them because nobody is bloody fast enough.

  • Comment 35, posted at 27.09.10 17:46:53 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 34) : oh my am i reading this right Rob come my friend SHARKS are never scared of giving their best to get that trophy we don’t want it on a platter we want it because we worked and played dame good rugby to receive it :mrgreen:

  • Comment 36, posted at 27.09.10 19:11:30 by chaz Reply


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