The Trial Match. A few observations.

Written by Maria Delport (Letgo)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 4 Feb 2012 at 23:56
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Sharks trial match was held this weekend and I thought I’d share a few of the insights I got from attending this event.

Firstly, for anyone that happens to be in the area for the next trial match, do yourself a favor and come to the stadium, it’s a real treat and a completely different experience to a competitive match. It’s much more relaxed, but intense, especially for the guys on the field, body blows and crunching hits, echoing through the rather empty stadium. It’s awesome.

Louis Ludik went on a run for the “Raggies” and instead of slowing down and attempting some sort of evasive action he decided that maintaining his speed and direction may give him enough momentum to get the best of his defender. His defender was JP Pietersen. Needless to say his momentum was met by a force great enough to stop him almost instantly. The collision produced a sound that prompted the small, but quietly enthusiastic crowed to grunt with approval and then continue to discuss the hit and the players involved.  Yes, we were a smallish crowed and some of the best plays of the night was merely applauded with a gentle clap, but the discussion was intense and the environment was intimate. Coaches were going onto the field, players were being moved around, things were happening and we were a part of it. Serious fun. And man did it get me excited for the season to start.

Things started off slowly and right away you could see that this whole exercise was not really to see what the “Raggies” could to, but rather in what shape the “Zambesis” was. The tight five of the Raggies was just never going to set up any kind of base for their team to work with. Although I think Monde Hadebe showed some good signs with his individual play, they never looked up for it as a unit though. Chadwick and Herbst were really solid on the night and it seems like Burden gets bigger every season. His tight play was just as good as the rest of his game and that’s really pleasing to see, since this has been pointed out as one of his weaknesses. Ross Skeate was again the reliable player we’ve gotten used to and Jandre Marais was strong with ball in hand and busy in the rucks. It’s hard to say with such a mismatched team, but I think he outplayed the so far preferred Anton Bresler.

The player that stood out the most amongst the loosies was Pieter-Steph Du Toit. I didn’t know his name at the game, and I was quite surprised that an unknown (or at least unknown to me) player was picked in the team that seemingly was the would be team, but I definitely know his name now and can see why the coaches gave him a proper shot at proving himself. He’s a big guy and tall, he was used as a line-out option. He made several strong runs and had the Zambesis on the front foot for most of the game. Again he did this from a solid base created by his tight five, but still quite impressive. Keegan was his usual self. Making runs and flip passes. He was involved in a beautiful try of interplay between JP, Bosman and himself. He had a Keegan game. I’m just not sure if that’s a good thing anymore. It just feels too loose at times. But that’s a matter for another day. Mtembu stood his man for the Zambesis. He looked good with ball in hand, but wasn’t involved a lot on the day. Even with a few injuries, the Sharks really don’t have anything to worry about in the loose forwards.

Jacques Botes was the best player for the “Raggies”. He definitely looked like he was trying to proof his own point. A lot of young players were there to do the same thing, but Jacques as one of the senior players nowadays, was definitely showing his coaches that he STILL had it in him. Kankowski looked rudderless the whole night. He did receive the ball on the back foot with no space all night, but geez he really does seem to be lacking that spark that made him so great. I really hope he can find some of that magic again before the season starts, because Kankowski at his best is invaluable.

With such a dominant performance from one team’s forwards, you were never really going to see the potential the other team’s backs might posses. Having said that, Cobus Reinach would have to step up his game if he wants to be a regular feature in the 22 of the Sharks in this year’s Super 15. He was under a lot of pressure and didn’t receive much clean ball, but this is the type of pressure you’ll have to be able to handle if you want to play at Super Rugby level. Later in the night his halfback partner, our French import Freddy Michalak, was switched into his position and looked more calm under pressure, but in my opinion his passing was never crisp or clean enough for that position. Michalak also didn’t look good at Flyhalf. A lot of his passes went to ground, his decision making wasn’t good and it didn’t help that there was clearly an issue with communication between the players that was probably playing together for the first time. All of this didn’t give the two young centers next to him much chance to show their potential. When he wasn’t passing loopy bad passes to them, he wasn’t passing to them at all. He tried to do too much on his own, either taking on the line and then making a low percentage offload or kicking the ball away. I would have a third Fly Half if I was the coach.

All of this obviously led to very little ball for the Raggies back three. Louis Ludik seemed to be frustrated to be on the wrong side of the field. I felt like he did all the right things when he got the ball, but his opposite number didn’t do anything wrong and everything at this match seems to indicate that he would be the preferred player to start at the back.

Charl McLeod had a really good game, the type of game where he really didn’t do anything or anything except pass, he did this really quickly and crisply every time and that’s what made him one of our most important players in the 2010 Currie Cup season. If he continues like this into the season, it will be a pleasure to see him behind the scrums again.

Lambie. Class.

Meyer Bosman looked really good on the night. He also looks like he might have buffed up a little during the off season and it seems like he’s really enjoying having a player next to him that runs attacking lines and gets over the advantage line… well on the night, every time. Bosman has never been the type of player to take on the defensive line, he’s always been a distributor and unlike Andries Strauss before him needs players around him that he can put into space with crisp and accurate passing. And JP Peterson seems like he could be the man for the job, the first advantage of having him in the midfield being, that he gets the ball more and that could never be a bad thing. I know it was only a trail match against, let’s just call it what it was, the B-Team or Tackle Bags, but I was really impressed with JP in this position. And the murmurs each time he got close to the ball would indicate that most of the crowed felt the same way. He ran good lines, always got over the advantage lines set up a great try with an inside offload to Bosman and he really looked enthusiastic in his new role, which could be the most important aspect if this move has a chance of working. One thing that could be a bit of a worry is that he really did not look comfortable passing the ball to his right, something he would have to work on if this experiment is going to be a success.

I felt a little disappointed in the outside backs. They had a lot of room to work with several times and didn’t make as much with it as I thought they possible could have. I suppose it comes down to not having played in a while and not being as sharp as they would be during the season.

I must say it still was awesome to see Lwazi Mvovo in full flight again, swerving and stepping around opposition. I can’t wait for the season to start again.

I can’t even wait for next week’s game against Boland.


  • Glad to hear good things about pieter-steph at 7.sharks need the 6’5/6’6 line-out option at the back of sharks teams of the past and a ball carrier with grunt and skill.plus he is still a lock option(his preferred position?).but the true test will not come in these sort of games,only in superrugby.
    Therefore I don’t feel it is time to start getting carried away with players’ performances- it was still only a pre-season trial game.

  • Comment 1, posted at 05.02.12 00:51:26 by bergshark Reply
  • How did riaan viljoen do?

  • Comment 2, posted at 05.02.12 01:01:57 by shaniboi Reply
  • @shaniboi (Comment 2) : with the departure of jl potgieter ,he might just be asked to play fh at some of the sr/cc this year.
    And then there is also the option of playing m bosman at ten.

  • Comment 3, posted at 05.02.12 01:07:48 by bergshark Reply
  • So a bench consisting of Ludik, Michalak and Sithole for the backs? Just plain vicious!

  • Comment 4, posted at 05.02.12 07:20:15 by King Shark Reply
    King Shark
  • @King Shark (Comment 4) : I’d go with a center in there Whitehead ahead of Ludik.

  • Comment 5, posted at 05.02.12 07:31:23 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • The Sharks are going to be tough to beat this year

  • Comment 6, posted at 05.02.12 07:54:39 by Mutley Reply
  • Sooo, is Plum looking at du Toit being a lock or a flank at this stage?

    Also congratulations to a Mr du Plessis! 🙂

  • Comment 7, posted at 05.02.12 09:16:40 by LordHope Reply

  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 5) : @King Shark (Comment 4) : I honestly I think the Sharks will be looking first to a 5-2 split bench mainly to help deal with their l/fwd overstock. So I’d say Michalak and Whitehead as the backs.

    And then once Plum has decided who the 3rd run-on l/fwd will be, presuming Daniel and Alberts are guaranteed starters, betw Deysel, Coetzee and Kanko (maybe even Botes) to occupy the bench.

    It doesn’t leave any room for young Pieter-Steph as a l/fwd at this stage but there is little doubt that this kid is going to become a huge deal at KP some day in the not too distant future.

    A 4-3 split bench might see either Alberts or Deysel being asked to cover lock. Altho it was just a trial match I think Jandre Marais did a lot to narrow the gap betw himself and these senior players on the Sharks value charts, meaning Plum will now start to think a bit harder about a makeshift lock vs a specialist on the bench.

  • Comment 8, posted at 05.02.12 10:06:34 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Nice to see F Zeilinga showing some worth thought the kid was forgotten .

  • Comment 9, posted at 05.02.12 10:28:43 by Talent Reply
  • Can the bloody rugby just start already 😮 😈

  • Comment 10, posted at 05.02.12 11:05:51 by JarsonX Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition WinnerCompetition Winner
  • @Talent (Comment 9) : I’m hopeful fred will be vodacom cup flyhalf.

  • Comment 11, posted at 05.02.12 11:27:30 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @beet (Comment 8) : I’ve heard mega reviews from everyone I’ve spoken to regarding Pieter-Steph. Sounds like he’s an awesome talent.

  • Comment 12, posted at 05.02.12 14:04:09 by Villie Reply
    Competition Winner
  • @Villie (Comment 12) : we’ve simply got to make a plan to use him in some meaningful capacity this year… not sure how, though, with 3 such good players already vying for the 4 jersey.

  • Comment 13, posted at 05.02.12 14:22:47 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 13) : Yeah I spoke to my Dad yesterday, who never misses a home game and watches all the curtain raisers U19, 21 etc,, and he says he is one of the most exciting prospects he has seen for many a year

  • Comment 14, posted at 05.02.12 14:39:47 by Villie Reply
    Competition Winner
  • @robdylan (Comment 11) : which Fred? 😉

  • Comment 15, posted at 05.02.12 14:52:54 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @beet (Comment 8) : I don`t get it.
    What happened to the obvious choice: Michalak at 10 and Lambie at 12? We got a result in Cape Town with this line up last year, which is more than I can say for the combination that faced province in Durban in the second round robin match.

  • Comment 16, posted at 05.02.12 16:20:37 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 16) : Ur going to have to define “obvious” coz Sharksworld is pretty much Pat Lambie aka Repus Tap @ 10 country. You “obviously” work for the dark side.

    No jokes. The fear was there that Plum wud resort to using Lambie at 12 to accommodate Freddy at 10. This theory was in line with his 2011 way of thinking. Fortunately 2012 seems to have brought with it a fresh and possibly more pressurised to achieve positive results approach.

    There are also a few of us that believe the sooner Pat settles in one position, the sooner he’ll be a viable option as captain.

    But Michalak at 10 Lambie at 12 can’t be ruled out esp as an option off the bench.

  • Comment 17, posted at 05.02.12 17:46:12 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 16) : @beet (Comment 17) : While Pat can (and I’m sure will) help out at 12 in times of need, he should be allowed to settle at 10. Of the many arguments for Pat af 10, the most compelling for me is that he brings two qualities to the flyhalf position that the Sharks have sorely been in need of for a while now, namely:

    Defensive solidity – no worries for the rest of the team in the flyhalf channel. Instead, the cover defense can concentrate on shoring up the gaping holes left by Meyer Bosman (I sure hope the coaches have been working hard on that!)

    Composure – he may not have the attacking flair of Jantjies or the boot of Goosen, but with Lambie you know that 99 times out of 100 he’ll be making the right decision, and more importantly, be making the decision and executing quickly, taking pressure off and creating space for the guys outside him

    So, while Pat has the makings of a great 12, I believe his greatest value to the Sharks lies af 10.

  • Comment 18, posted at 05.02.12 19:18:11 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song
  • @beet (Comment 17) : I’m with you on this one, while it’s an option I don’t see how it’s the obvious choice. I reckon this is a third choice option at best. Freddy at 10 and Lambie at 15 being the second choice.

  • Comment 19, posted at 05.02.12 19:19:02 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Thanks for your arti on the trials, Letgo…I always trust a woman”s point of view a little better! 😀

    I dont think we need to worry about Bosman…underneath all, there is something special waiting…we had glimpses (albeit very few) of it last year…

    My concern is Joubert…I dont think he”ll be able to cut the cheese…. 😀 adn he is keeping talent to be developed like Jordaan and Whitehead…

  • Comment 20, posted at 05.02.12 19:24:02 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Culling Song (Comment 18) : I”m gonna go as far as too say that Pat (at the moment and perhaps beyond) will not be a Frans Steyn at 12 – so I’d say settle him at 10….and if really necessary use him at 10 and 15 at the Boks…but that’s THAT!

  • Comment 21, posted at 05.02.12 19:28:08 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • I am seriously happy to hear a good report for McLeod….. we need him to give Pat those few extra seconds to totally dominate….
    I am so exited about this season….. big expectation

  • Comment 22, posted at 05.02.12 19:59:34 by Franshark Reply
  • Nice ‘un Letgo.

    Good to get some feedback on developments for this year. I think that with all the external factors making sourcing talent so difficult, the Sharks coaches will have to use their players much better than they have hoistorically.

    These trials show that the coaches are willing to step outside their comfort zones and use what they have in the best way possible.

  • Comment 23, posted at 05.02.12 21:08:50 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish

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