Now it’s do or die

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 23 May 2011 at 09:22
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I think I wrote an article a few weeks back about how the Sharks love to do things the hard way. With that in the back of my mind as I watched Saturday’s implosion against the Bulls, I found myself overcome with a real sense of deja vu….

This is not a side that is, for whatever reason, capable of building up a sustainable head of steam in Super Rugby. It is, after all, a tortuous competition and playing consistently well from start to finish is always going to be a huge challenge. That said, the Sharks have established a real pattern in the last few years of building up a good lead, before throwing it away spectacularly as the season progresses. Last year was, of course, the exception in that the pattern was reversed, but 2011 is so far turning out to be a carbon copy of the 2009 season, where the Sharks sprinted to the top of the table after 6 or 7 rounds, only to drop off alarmingly and end up missing out on the play-offs altogether.

2011, in short, is now balanced on a knife’s edge. John Plumtree has taken the side from being finalists in 2007 and semi-finalists in 2008 (he was an assistant to Dick Muir in those years) to finishing 6th in 2009 and 9th in 2010. Players have come and gone, support personnel have been duly tinkered with and the odd Currie Cup trophy has been won in between, but the harsh reality is that the Sharks have failed in Super Rugby under Plumtree, consistently, despite having a squad of players that, on paper at least, should be genuine title contenders every year.

I see this one now in black and white, at the risk of coining a very corny phrase. The Sharks are out for the count, but are certainly not dead and buried. They are now a single point outside the play-off zone and can still make serious strides back into the top six by beating the Waratahs handsomely this coming weekend. Despite their respective “mini revivals”, both the Lions and the Cheetahs are infinitely beatable in their respective home stadia and the Sharks now, quite simply, have to show their class and put away the weaker sides. That should leave the final round-robin clash against the Bulls as a do-or-die decider for the last play-off spot. Who knows, if the Bulls are as serious about making it as they appear to be, they might even scalp the Stormers along the way, leaving the way clear for either the Durbanites or (more likely on current form) Pretorians to sneak first place in the conference.

The harsh reality, though, is that Plumtree’s game plan has been well and truly figured out. The Stormers showed the way and the other top sides have all adopted the blueprint with various degrees of success – in short, it’s not difficult to beat the Sharks because you know what they’re going to do. We will go into more detailed analysis as the week progresses, I’m sure, but if this season is going to turn out to be any different to the two that have preceded it, the Sharks are going to have to introduce some unpredictability and variation into their play. Couple that with an obsessive approach to cutting out basic errors and they may yet surprise us all.

With my hand on my heart, though, I can’t say that I’m holding my breath.


  • Some observations;

    Take out their momentum players (Alberts/Deysel) and they struggle – it is easy to have two players on these boys in defense.

    There is very little variation in the play at 9 and 10, even Lambie is becoming predictable.

    And then of course, the problem that the Sharks have had for some time now – finishers…

    Just look at the importance of the top teams and the strike running ability of their outside backs (13, 11, 14 & 15).

    Ludik and JPP might have the potential but they are not used as such. Odwa, Stef are solid, but they pose zero threat to the opposition.

    Mvovo needs to start, Adi also needs to get an extended run.

  • Comment 1, posted at 23.05.11 09:30:17 by Morné Reply
  • Nice piece Rob. It will be interesting to see how many points will be required to finish 6th.

    I am hoping it will only be 51

    3 wins out of 4 for the Sharks (55), should be enough shouldn’t it?

  • Comment 2, posted at 23.05.11 09:31:54 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 1) :

    You mention strike runners..

    Look at the impact van den Heever and Basson had on the game..

    Very good point, and it is sad that JPP is not used to his full potential in this regard.

  • Comment 3, posted at 23.05.11 09:33:03 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 1) :

    So they have got no backs basically ! 😆

  • Comment 4, posted at 23.05.11 09:33:17 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 4) :

    When last did we see JPP receive a ball at pace with a bit of space in the Sharks team?

    The lad is big, strong and fast, he is currently wasted.

    For that matter, has Ludik ever been used as a weapon on attack?

  • Comment 5, posted at 23.05.11 09:36:01 by Morné Reply
  • I posted this on another article buts its more relevent here.

    I have a strong suspicion that since Plum was a loose forward, he has had a dream from the time he was small that one day loose forwards will rule the rugby world. That good loose forwards mean good teams, and nothing else matters.

    His living his dream, the Sharks game depends on its loose forwards, or Alberts specifically.

    Is Brendan Venter around next year? The Sharks need some insight from an external source. I think that’s what’s lacking. Our whole coaching structure depends on personal that were involved with the Sharks in the past. We sought have become close minded in a way. . . Its time to get some coaches or advisors that were not previously involved in the Sharks. We always choke in Super Rugby and its time we start investing, or this rut will continue.

  • Comment 6, posted at 23.05.11 09:36:33 by Mocho Reply

  • @Morné (Comment 1) : I have to agree with you Morne.

  • Comment 7, posted at 23.05.11 09:37:21 by Ben Reply
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  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 4) : Basically he’s right! 🙄

  • Comment 8, posted at 23.05.11 09:40:11 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 5) : 😉

  • Comment 9, posted at 23.05.11 09:40:56 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • As much as I love the potential of the Alberts/Deysel combo, they are not very effective without a playmaker in the loose trio. That’s why they are so ineffective when Botes is in the combo, even with Daniel at 6. A combo of Daniel/Kanko at 8, Alberts at 7 and Deysel at 6 would be so much more effective.

  • Comment 10, posted at 23.05.11 09:41:04 by KingRiaan Reply

  • Bonus points look like they going to be crucial!

    Reds Q
    Crusaders Q
    Stormers Q
    Blues Q
    Sharks 55
    Waratahs 53

    Bulls 52
    Highlanders 51

    It’s close with some real huge swing games still everything to play for!

    Keep the faith! 😎

  • Comment 11, posted at 23.05.11 09:43:59 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • All the comments have merit BUT the one thing that bothers me the most is the lack of URGENCY and COMMITMENT. What has happened to the Sharks team of the CC semi’s and final?

  • Comment 12, posted at 23.05.11 09:46:15 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 12) :
    I must commend the Stormers for their passion and pride for the jersey that I’m so desperately missing within the Sharks!

  • Comment 13, posted at 23.05.11 09:52:33 by Pokkel Reply
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  • The Sharks aren’t going to overtake the Stormers now. So they are doomed to a 3 week away tour, that could be as bad as playing 3 games in 3 different countries in 3 weeks. And that is only if they make the top 6, that looks more like a pipe dream at this stage. So I think it is fair to say the Sharks have poked themselves in the butt.

  • Comment 14, posted at 23.05.11 10:09:31 by waje Reply

  • @Morné (Comment 1) : as posted over the weekend, I really feel Ludik has the potential to be an attacking threat. And yes JPP must be brought into the game.

  • Comment 15, posted at 23.05.11 10:14:04 by catfish Reply
  • @Pokkel (Comment 12) : Yes we are playing like slapgatte.

  • Comment 16, posted at 23.05.11 10:19:36 by Honey Badger Reply

    Honey Badger
  • My observations might be of the spot, but I am sure that Ludick and Mvovo were used more as runners during the Currie Cup. Taking the down field kicks and running them up at speed. For some reason, that strategy is not present in the Super format.

    The Sharks currently rely much to heavily on Alberts and others to take the short pass and gain territory. However, after that there appears to be no real plan in the game. It’s either run up by the midfield for the next phase where the forwards wil be utilised again and again. And then there is the isolation of the ball carrier or the ball gets spilled.

    Everybody agrees and agreed that this competition is going to take its toll on the players because of the increased amount of games that they have to play and the injuries that most teams have suffered are evident to that. Where would a team, losing their 10-12-13 pairing, win the top AB team…..AWAY? That would be almost inconceivable. If that is to happen at the Sharks……..

    The Sharks players have been overplayed and my prediction is that we will soon see more players in the stands due to injury. With the Stormers not afraid to take a 19 year old prop (Kitshoff)on tour and a “new” centre in Sadie and giving them exposure, they are bound to develop into the Crusaders of South Africa. The Bulls are way to conservative in player exposure and even more so the Sharks. The only position where there has been real player rotation, was in the front row. It is surely time for Plum to give players rest/exposure in the team.

  • Comment 17, posted at 23.05.11 10:21:00 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

  • @Hertford Highlander (Comment 2) : 53 points should do it.

  • Comment 18, posted at 23.05.11 13:04:20 by McLovin Reply

  • hate to say it, but the du Preez injury might be a blessing in disguise for us if it derails the Bulls in any way.

    Problem is, they’ve got amazing backup in Hougaard.

  • Comment 19, posted at 23.05.11 13:30:22 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 19) : ja…die klein snotkop…

  • Comment 20, posted at 23.05.11 13:59:56 by Ice Reply
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  • Great post, as always. And I agree with everything (as always – were we separated at birth??? 😛 )
    I felt in my bones at the start of this season that we would make the finishing line. I still think we will, but it ain’t going to be pretty, and like you I am not going to risk an oxygen deficiency while waiting for the outcome!!! 😆

  • Comment 21, posted at 23.05.11 14:49:47 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 19) : Blessings come in disguise… Everything happens the way it’s supposed to… :mrgreen:

  • Comment 22, posted at 23.05.11 14:51:09 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • Playoff contenders and their remaining fixtures.

    Reds: Crusaders (Home), Brumbies (Home), Western Force (Away), Chiefs (Away). Verdict – top 2 with 67.

    Waratahs: Sharks (Away), Bulls (Away), Highlanders (Home), Brumbies (Home). Verdict – 55.

    Blues: Bye, Chiefs (Home), Crusaders (Away), Highlanders (Home). Verdict – top 2 with 64.

    Crusaders: Reds (Away), Bye, Blues (Home), Hurricanes (Home but at Hurricanes ground). Verdict – playoffs with 62.

    Highlanders: Lions (Home), Western Force (Home), Waratahs (Away), Blues (Away). Verdict – 53 and no cigar.

    Stormers: Brumbies (Away), Rebels (Away), Bulls (Home), Cheetahs (Away). Verdict – playoffs with 62 points.

    Sharks: Waratahs (Home), Cheetahs (Away), Lions (Away), Bulls (Away). Verdict – playoffs with 57 points.

    Bulls: Cheetahs (Home), Waratahs (Home), Stormers (Away), Sharks (Home). Verdict – playoffs with 59 points.

    Sharks to travel to the Stormers. Bulls to travel to the Crusaders.

  • Comment 23, posted at 24.05.11 07:53:00 by King Shark Reply
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