Structure the key for Sharks

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 25 Oct 2011 at 12:53
Tagged with : , ,

The biggest lesson that the Sharks need to learn from their somewhat unconvincing semi-final performance is this: their strength lies in their pack and a structured forward game. Deviance from this recipe for the Currie Cup Final would be nothing but folly.

The Sharks went into the game against the Cheetahs trying to play the wrong way – that much is clear. It’s something that has been brewing for some time and can probably be traced back to the somewhat unexpected admission, by Fred Michalak of all people, that he’d convinced the coach to adopt a more expansive style ahead of the Loftus clash against the Blue Bulls. The thinking back then seemed to be that since the Sharks were missing the sort of players needed to dominate up-front, it would make more sense to bring the dangerous guys out wide into the reckoning as quickly as possible.

The problem is, though, that things have moved on since then and the Sharks need their flyhalf to adapt with them. A big part of the initial problem on Saturday can probably be traced back to exactly that factor – Fred wanting to play expansively and fling the ball around when the real strength lies with the forwards and a tighter, more structured game.

It’s no coincidence that the Sharks finally started to assert control once Lambie took over at pivot, because he introduced a more direct game that kept the forwards involved, rather than playing them out of it. The lesson needs to be learned and learned properly, though, because if the Sharks try to play an expansive game against the Lions, they will not win the final. It’s the pack – and their dominance at set pieces and on the drive – that will win this game for the Sharks. Let’s hope they remember that and all play to the same script.


  • Its the old saying of: You have to earn the right to go wide! The Sharks have never been a team thats good a flinging the ball around. They use their forwards to get over the advantage line and suck in defenders and the spread it wide to score with the wings.Its rugby not rocket science. Patience will be key on Saturday as the Lions have a good defense so the Sharks will have to go through a lot of phases before gaps will open.

  • Comment 1, posted at 25.10.11 13:09:24 by SheldonK Reply
  • I very nervous about which Freddie will pitch up. πŸ™„

    SuperPat for flyhalf is all that will calm my nerves! 😎

  • Comment 2, posted at 25.10.11 13:24:20 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Rob, I agree with you regarding structure, but I won’t blame Fred or an expansive mindset too much – the issue was more to do with a lack of patience in building phases.

    It was pretty clear early on that the Sharks were trying to engineer line breaks/ busts way too early, while the defensive line was still very structured. This was how come the Cheetahs had the defenders nicely set up to knock us back each time.

    One problem with Freddie is that he lacks the physical presence to take the ball straight up, and he plays better with centres/ loosies who run at angles off him – which is rare with the Sharks (our ball carriers all use brute force on attack). The other issue was that unlike Pat, he doesn’t often enough direct play, even if it means refusing the ball in favour of the forwards.

    Two things that I especially enjoyed about Pat on Saturday were that he played very direct, and that he directed play well, and helped bring patience in the phase-building.

    An expansive game plan can work for us, with our superior wings, if we first have patience to go through enough phases to disrupt the defensive lines (no coincidence how often we score on the counter – play is already broken without the need for phases, and we have some awesome runners).

    Against the Cheetahs there were times the commentators were commenting on how our forwards were not making big yards on the drive – I was praying that we didn’t share that concern at the time – a lack of yardage in itself is not a problem, as long as you start creating disruption in the defender’s lines. In my opinion, the Lions will hit us at least as hard as the Cheetahs, and we must be strong and patient enough to allow that if needs be, as long as we retain possession and create some space outwide.

  • Comment 3, posted at 25.10.11 13:28:55 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 3) :

    So in a shorter version. SuperPat at 10 for the weekend! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 4, posted at 25.10.11 13:31:02 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Big Fish (Comment 3) : πŸ˜‰

  • Comment 5, posted at 25.10.11 13:36:38 by Charlie Reply

  • @Pokkel (Comment 4) :
    Yes – and Fred off the bench.

    Alternative is Pat at 12; this will allow him more space and he can float in at first receiver at will, while we also retain Fred’s neat touches and unpredictability.

  • Comment 6, posted at 25.10.11 13:47:50 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 3) : I agree with you that Patience is the key! It doesnt really matter who plays where in the backline and what forwards play where. Each person knows what they are required to do-either take it up or spread it wide. But the players need the patience to keep doing those things when under pressure.

  • Comment 7, posted at 25.10.11 13:59:07 by SheldonK Reply

  • @Big Fish (Comment 3) : @Pokkel (Comment 4) : Pat at 10, Big Fish in the coaches’ box, yes please.

  • Comment 8, posted at 25.10.11 14:01:17 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song
  • Very sensible article this, as well as the comments.

  • Comment 9, posted at 25.10.11 14:03:47 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox
  • @Big Fish (Comment 6) :

    Do you think Freddie’s defense is strong enough at 12 if needed against Hollenbach?

  • Comment 10, posted at 25.10.11 14:03:59 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Pokkel (Comment 10) : No, but Lambie’s is and I suppose he will always cover 12 on defense, if he was to be used there.

  • Comment 11, posted at 25.10.11 14:19:53 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Silver Fox (Comment 9) : You’tr right…Sharks are very sensible. And so the Sharks will play with sense, and therefor win the Final. πŸ˜€

  • Comment 12, posted at 25.10.11 14:21:15 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Big Fish (Comment 6) : I like that…

  • Comment 13, posted at 25.10.11 14:22:42 by Franshark Reply
  • @Pokkel (Comment 10) :
    Not really. He will stop him, but it will be over the Ad line and probably draw a second tackler cos they don’t trust him enough on defence – this is the reason guys like Morne Steyn, Goosen and Jantjies get run at all day – even if there are no clean breaks on their channel.

    I first watched Hollenbach as a youngster playing for the Cheetahs, before he disappeared for a while. He was an outside back then, and I expected him to do very well, given his size and pace.

    Bit surprised he was in the wilderness so long, but he is a very useful player. Not just anyone who can bump Schalk onderste-bo. 😯

  • Comment 14, posted at 25.10.11 14:27:11 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Letgo (Comment 12) : Hehehe see what I have to say on the other thread about you and a couple of others. πŸ˜€

  • Comment 15, posted at 25.10.11 14:30:49 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox
  • @Letgo (Comment 11) :

    That is why I said ‘if needed’

    A quick turnover could see Freddie having to defend the 12 channel. The Sharks cover defense should be good enough to negate Freddie’s defensive frailties though.

  • Comment 16, posted at 25.10.11 14:34:04 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Kinda of article that makes hendrikp excited! I say play to our strengths ;Awesome outside backs and forwards.

    But why not play expansive with players like Kanko and Daniel in our pack ,looks like our forward pack is mobile and big enough for any game plan

  • Comment 17, posted at 25.10.11 14:51:07 by Talent Reply
  • We need to evolve ,we cant be so conventional in our aproach ,we have the players at our disposal to play expansively if we need and tight if we need.

  • Comment 18, posted at 25.10.11 14:53:20 by Talent Reply
  • Rob,

    i am from the Macintosh error and a firm believer of the go forward momentum by taking the ball flat and not one mile behind the advantage line.

    When we played the Lions in the Superrugby match, all that Butch did was take the ball flat, commit the opposition defence and holes started opening in the Sharks backline.

    In my opinion, this was the same mistake that the Boks made. With the surfeit of possession that we had, we needed to take the ball flat and disrupt the drift defence that the Aussies use.

  • Comment 19, posted at 25.10.11 14:53:33 by dawj Reply

  • @Talent (Comment 18) :

    You can’t really expect the Sharks to change the gameplan in the last game of the season.

  • Comment 20, posted at 25.10.11 15:08:08 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Fred’s tackling is under rated,I would say that Pat and Fred’s defense is almost the same.They do not tackle a guy back if you know what I mean.But they do tackle.

    Just before we played the bulls people said they can not imagine what would happen if Bakkies had a run at Fred,It did happen and Bakkies got tackled.

    Fred 10 – Pat 12,stand both sides as first receiver.

  • Comment 21, posted at 25.10.11 15:45:07 by Honey Badger Reply

    Honey Badger
  • @Pokkel (Comment 20) : what exactly has been the game plan? ❓

    There hasnt been a player buy in to a specific game plan this season .Our forwards just play a generic game ,our scrumhalves (bar mcleod ) take an age to get the ball out -they play like their fathers era scrumhalves would play by calming things down and dishing out instructions (if there was truely a game plan this would not need to happen) . Our midfield defends . Its all rather predictable. Its not sharks rugby its just rugby…
    Rugby by defualt ,forward orientated becuase of the forwards we have.

  • Comment 22, posted at 25.10.11 17:04:15 by Talent Reply
  • My oh my, how the wheel turns… 😈

  • Comment 23, posted at 25.10.11 17:48:44 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • One off the things that was disappointing off the semi was the amount of times we were penalized for going over the ruck, especially Deysel

  • Comment 24, posted at 25.10.11 18:24:07 by Franshark Reply
  • For the Sharks first try they took the ball thru 8 phases and the 2nd try they went 12 phases… We need more of that!!

  • Comment 25, posted at 25.10.11 18:28:47 by Franshark Reply
  • @Franshark (Comment 24) : I also saw that. Rob are you going to put up the stats for that game? I think Joubert got pinged a few times as well for going over the rucks. Do the Sharks have too many ball carriers and short on hard grafters like Sykes? That’s why I want to see the stats.

  • Comment 26, posted at 25.10.11 20:08:27 by Mocho Reply

  • @michalakfred haha sorry Sir freddie michalak… Travel safe tomorrow,and have a great game…
    Breslers tweet. Guess his not in the team for the final then.

  • Comment 27, posted at 25.10.11 20:10:58 by Mocho Reply

  • Hugh Reece Edward said that the Sharks have a label of the label of a winning side but not a champion side, and they keen to change that.

    In 2007 we made S14 Final.
    In 2008 we made S14 Semi-final
    In 2008 we won the Currie Cup
    In 2009 we made the Currie Cup semi-final ( not something we should bloat about considering the circumstances.
    In 2010 we Won the Currie Cup
    In 2011 We made the playoffs in Super Rugby and now in a Currie Cup final.

    All good on paper but just reminds me 70% student. Getting good marks but does not have the class to be an A student.
    Winning two currie cups in a row and 3 in four years will say something about this team. Didn’t the Sharks make a Super Rugby final in 1996 or something?

  • Comment 28, posted at 25.10.11 20:18:29 by Mocho Reply

  • Sharks going to Sun City tomz. Apparently the whole training idea at Rustenberg before SuperRugby match vs the Bulls at Loftus is going to try and be repeated. How far is Sun city from Johannesburg?

  • Comment 29, posted at 25.10.11 21:20:00 by Mocho Reply

  • Does anyone know where to get some proper tickets? When I try to book them on computicket it keeps pushing me into the highest corner of the Stadium. I don’t care if the ticket is more expensive, I just want to be able to make out the difference between Lambie and Jannie Du Plusis when I’m watching the game!

  • Comment 30, posted at 25.10.11 21:57:08 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author

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