Telling only half the story

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Stormers, Super Rugby on 2 May 2011 at 10:23
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

Sharks coach John Plumtree has had a fair bit to say after his side’s 32-12 reversal to the Stormers this weekend – most significantly, he has questioned the physical and mental approach and commitment shown by the players in going down heavily to a side that were superior in all facets of play on the day. While I feel the coach is spot on in some of his assessments, he is missing at least half of the picture.

Let’s get this out of the way – the Sharks forwards were smashed and with the game that they play, they’re never going to win when that happens. You can blame a little of this on poor selections, but for the most part, the issue was exactly as Plumtree has identified – lack of fire, aggression and application. In short, the forwards failed to “pitch up” for this game and got nailed. We can, of course, go into more detail about this as well. How can it be that the same bunch of guys who, on their day are the best pack in the competition, can disappear en masse on other days. Perhaps it’s a mental thing and perhaps the Sharks have again been caught napping by not having a dedicated mental coach on board. I know the Stormers do this season…

The coaching staff can’t be held responsible for the mistakes, though – for the lack of aggression and accuracy at the breakdown, for poor handling at crucial times, nor for the poor decision making that gifted the Stormers the ball far too often. What they can – and must – be accountable for is the lack of tactical nous that played as big a part in this defeat as any of the factors mentioned. Fact is, the Sharks were outsmarted as well as outplayed and coming up against a foe who had analysed every weakness in our game and been prepared to exploit them to their fullest, one could argue that Plumtree’s team had lost the game before the opening whistle even blew.

It points to a certain lack of flexibility in the game plan – at the press conference after the Hurricane game, the Sharks coach seemed almost irritated at questions about which changes to their approach the Sharks might need to make in order to beat the Stormers. The whole attitude was along the lines of “we beat them last year so we know how to do it”, with very little acknowledgement that the Cape side may have progressed since 2010. The Sharks, in contrast and in all fairness, haven’t. The same problems persist and, seemingly, continue to be ignored.

The midfield is a huge concern and while I hate laying the blame at the feet of individuals, who never pick themselves, it’s time that we acknowledge that Stefan Terblanche simply cannot hold his own at outside centre in this competition. Stef has gone above and beyond the call of duty for the Sharks on more occasions than I could possibly recall and I feel that the coaching staff are doing him no favours in deploying him in a role that simply doesn’t suit him. Charl McLeod is another who seems to have lost his way a little and the crisp passing game that saw him gain Springbok selection last year seems to be disappearing as he attempts to turn himself into more of a playmaker and less of a link man. Meyer Bosman is all at sea in a backline that he is still getting to know and without a natural defending in the channel alongside him (acknowledged to be the hardest position defensivly), the big former Cheetah is getting caught betwixt and between far too often.

The problem is, though, that on another day, when the forwards fire, the backline problems simply seem to melt away as they are never tested on defence – at least, not seriously or often enough for their failings to alter the result. The Sharks, in short, have become a team with absolutely no plan other than forward dominance and while that in itself is a noble aim, I feel they simply have to grow to the point where they can hold their own against a team that is winning the battle up-front. Based on Saturday’s evidence, there simply isn’t a Plan B and with the Stormers currently boasting a forward unit that has shown clear superiority on two occasions, the Sharks are going to have to come up with something different if they hope to have any say in the final destination of the Super Rugby trophy this year. Ditto the Currie Cup.

Let’s just hope that the coaches are aware of the full story, even if Plumtree is only prepared to reveal half of it in the press.


  • “the Sharks were outsmarted as well as outplayed and coming up against a foe who had analysed every weakness in our game and been prepared to exploit them to their fullest”. Spot on, Rob. The Sharks had no plan other than smash through with their forwards and when that plan went out of the window through a lack of collective committment the game was lost. I simmer with agreement on all you say. At the breakdown particularly there was no aggression, at least not like The Stormers had, and as a result every 50-50 ball at the breakdown was lost and The Sharks were on the back foot once again.
    It must be psychological. How come a team like The Bulls can play such rubbish in one half and then come out as champions in the other half as they did on Saturday? The Sharks have lost the edge they had at the beginning of the competition and need to retrieve it, fast. There is still time and all is not lost but this week has to be a turning point. Confidence and direction are desperately needed.

  • Comment 1, posted at 02.05.11 10:37:32 by Donald Reply
  • The Stormers had a point to prove, after we embarrassed them last year – we treated it as just another game. Any news on citings? Not to sound like sour grapes, but there were a couple of incidents in the first half that deserve to be looked at. Also think Stef needs some bench time, but I’m nervous to bench Charl for Conrad. I know Hoff #2 looked the business in the last ten against the Hurricanes, but playing for the full 80 in a very young half-back pairing seems a bit risky, ne?

  • Comment 2, posted at 02.05.11 10:55:46 by MerckZ Reply
  • This smashing theorie is actually why I said on a previous thread that I don’t like the idea of playing alberts and deysel at the same time. Smashing wins 3 to 5 meters, going thru the gap wins u much more. The smashing is there to open the gap, yes, but someone has to take the gap. With to many players smashing no one is using the gaps.

  • Comment 3, posted at 02.05.11 11:29:36 by franshark Reply
  • Well said Rob, think you hit the nail on the head.

    I still believe we have one, if not the best pack of forwards in the competition, our midfield is where we will be found out every week and until this is sorted we will struggle.

    Lets be honest here, Stef, I agree is way out of his depth. He needs to be moved back to fullback. Ludick is average at the back, we do not need average we need good or great! Stef also has a much better kicking game than Ludick.

    Bosman needs to go, sorry to be rude but he needs to go immediately. He has never impressed and will always only be a Currie Cup player at best. Bash and Reece need to open their eyes, I do not understand that they can not see this. It is actually humiliating that there is 2 backline coaches and not one has the balls to make a call on the 2 weak links.
    Bosman came to us to solve our creative midfield issues, what a joke I would rather have Dries Strauss that is as creative as a plumber but will defend as if his life depended on it!

    Put Jacobs in at 12 and move Ndungane in at 13, he is consistantly good and defends like a trojan. Also Odwa has lost a yard in pace which means the move to 13 will suit him, like the All Blacks did with Tana Umanga moving him to 13.
    This will give Mvovo and JPP opportunity on the wings.

    Rob I can not agree more with what you said about Mcleod, he is way under par and must be droppped. The scary thought is that his backup is Hoffman, I never rated him but he will need to step up.

    To me Kanko is also way under par and his poor tackling means that Alberts must put in double the amount of tackles. He never carries the ball anymore because this is now the job of Alberts, we are over working Alberts and its going to show. Kanko needs to be dropped, Daniel to 8, Deysel to 6.

    Rob, is there no talks in Sharks rugby of recruiting centres, I know Joubert is coming but he is old and over the hill. Is there no silver lining, Rob?

    O ja to end with, I wonder how creative our 2 backline coaches are? They are as creative as Meyer Bosman in their coaching style which means a tumble drier is more creative than Bash, Reece and Bosman combined.

    I am extremely dissapointed. πŸ˜₯

    Great write up Rob!

  • Comment 4, posted at 02.05.11 11:29:58 by Reynier Jacobs Reply

  • I think that we underestimate the impact of the lack of form from charl, the high passes, late at breakdown, slow service and then the kicking is way to much and with no accuracy and purpose. This is a lot to do with his attitude because he has the skill but since Rocket left he is just not there.

  • Comment 5, posted at 02.05.11 11:43:04 by franshark Reply
  • um, the sharks have be scoring tries through their forwarda & from turnover situations the whole year! the stormers were mocked for having a bok backline that is impotent.

    the sharks thought they only had to show up and impose their forwards on the stormers like they did last year and voila the game would ve in the bag…

    kudos to the stormers coaching staff who clearly analysed the rebels & saders games against the sharks and saw that the centres were the sharks achilles, especially the 10,12 channel.

    it’s hard for plum to change the gameplan when there’s nothing to change it to.

    the reds tried the expansive approach on the stormers & 15min into the contest they switched to employ a territory based approach that pressurised the stormers back 3.

    do the sharks have this capacity?

  • Comment 6, posted at 02.05.11 12:01:33 by Megatron Reply

  • @Megatron (Comment 6) : the answer, quite simply, is “no”, or maybe “not at the moment”

  • Comment 7, posted at 02.05.11 12:03:31 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Good analysis Robbo!

  • Comment 8, posted at 02.05.11 12:04:38 by catfish Reply
  • @catfish (Comment 8) : rad Big Fish’s… it’s even better!

  • Comment 9, posted at 02.05.11 12:09:15 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • smit named as bok world cup cappie πŸ˜‰

  • Comment 10, posted at 02.05.11 12:19:36 by Megatron Reply

  • @Megatron (Comment 10) : There’s a surprise. 😈 πŸ˜‰

  • Comment 11, posted at 02.05.11 12:23:06 by McLovin Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 9) : Don’t you think that there is a problem with the players or something,Bismarck maybe realized that he will not be a regular starter for the wc etc.

  • Comment 12, posted at 02.05.11 13:18:09 by Honey Badger Reply

    Honey Badger
  • And why did not we try and play with the forwards more,that is our game.
    All the games that we struggle we instantly thought we have this brilliant backline that scores 10 tries every match.

    Our back line is ok but we have do to the hard work with the forwards 1.

  • Comment 13, posted at 02.05.11 13:20:30 by Honey Badger Reply

    Honey Badger
  • My little egg is this:
    1) Yes some players are not good enough – names already mentioned.
    2) The one team that beat the Stormers (REDS) did not run against them, they KICKED against them.
    3) For this one I will be killed, but the Sharks do not have tactical kicking in their no 10.
    4) How many times do you see Ludik in the line? Look for instance at the no 15 of Province in the Vodacom quarter on Saturday. He was in the line most of the time. Your no 15 is part of the attack, otherwise it was a 14 men game.
    5) Ball in hand is good, but so is rain. At the wrong time it can ruin the crop. PLEASE DO SOME THINKING – whether you are on your feet or sitting in the coach’s box!!!

  • Comment 14, posted at 02.05.11 19:00:21 by snoestaxi Reply

  • 100% agree,concurs with my comments on other blogs. Mcleod is putting the entire backline under pressure, I’m not blaming him for our loss though, our forwards let us down. We were carrying 2 too many players in the pack on Saturday. Our backline’s weaknesses were not clear because they were getting quick good forward ball. Some of the blame must go to Plum. Most teams are not committing numbers @ the breakdown and this strategy is exploited by teams such as the Stormers and Highlanders to get turnover ball by sending numbers to the ruck. We also lost against the Lions last year in the CC because we didn’t send numbers to the rucks which resulted in Derrick Minnie having a field day. Don’t know why we went for MB and Marius Joubert, should have direct our focus at Juan De Jongh.

  • Comment 15, posted at 02.05.11 19:47:24 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • @snoestaxi (Comment 14) : wow, nice post! i agree fully on ludik, compare him to israel dagg or ben smith or muliaina or toeava!

  • Comment 16, posted at 02.05.11 20:00:31 by Megatron Reply

  • Directed.

  • Comment 17, posted at 02.05.11 20:05:35 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • One of the things I learnt from last years CC and S14 finals is exactly what Schalk said, sometimes team can be just 5%/10%/15% off their game and you’re punished for it. For me, the way our forwards played throughout the CC and S14 last year was MILES ahead of what we saw in the finals (at least in my eyes). What I’m getting at is, don’t be so hard on your team, they’re still bloody good, and they’ll bounce back. Just glad we don’t have to play them again, unless maybe in the knockouts.

  • Comment 18, posted at 02.05.11 20:13:42 by molly Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition Winner Author
  • I’ll even be gracious and not remind you guys that pretty much all of you told me “the sharks allowed wp to play like they did” πŸ˜‰

  • Comment 19, posted at 02.05.11 20:27:08 by molly Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition Winner Author
  • Good news guys. The Sharks are still doing really well so far and still have a good shot at the playoffs. If we make it, we would have improved on last yr’s effort. So hopefully we bring in some new personnel (and develop a few youngsters) and do even better next season. Bosman is slow off the mark laterally and Ludik is as save as houses at the back but doesn’t offer enough x-factor on attack. But look around. Where are we doing to find better players than these guys in the short term? We need to give Hoffman a shot as a starter.

  • Comment 20, posted at 02.05.11 20:51:28 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Stefan Terblance missed a trick last year. He should have retired after we won the CC. He would have been remebered as the guy who lifted his team to CC glory. Now he has became somewhat of a has been and I don’t blame him at all. Plum is the one to blame here.

  • Comment 21, posted at 02.05.11 23:36:55 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author

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