The Quirk

The Missing Link

Written by Ryan Quirk (The Quirk)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 10 Apr 2012 at 08:57
Tagged with : , , , , ,

And no, I’m not talking about Willem Alberts.  Something is missing in the Sharks team in 2012 and I’ve decided to venture an opinion on what it might be.

What has gone wrong?  The Sharks are currently third in the SA conference with 3 wins from 7 games.  They have lost to the Hurricanes, Waratahs, Stormers and Bulls.  They were in with a shot of winning three of the four games which would suggest that they’re not too far away from being a very competitive side, especially when you consider where the teams they’ve lost against are sitting on the overall log, with the exception of the Waratahs.

So why did are the Sharks losing the close games?

There are a few reasons, the first being leadership.  The Sharks have had strong leaders in John Smit and, in his absence, Johan Muller and Stefan Terblanche, in the recent past.  All those men are gone, and with them their cool heads, their tactical nous and, perhaps most importantly, their ability to bring calm to those around them in the midst of a storm of panic.  You can’t just replace players like that.  Their successors must learn from experience, from being in tough situations where all looks lost or when they’re standing on that knife edge between success and failure.

The Sharks threw the game away against the Waratahs, they had a good lead and let it slip due to a loss in concentration.  One could blame jet-lag and travel fatigue for that; but against the Bulls, Stormers and even the Hurricanes they were almost frantic.  Defensive structures failed and tries were scored against the run of play.  The basics of the game were left at home and one got the impression that it was fifteen individuals playing their hearts out, not a team playing as one…

The second reason I see for the Sharks current mid-table malaise is a lack of discipline, which harkens back to my previous point about leadership.  They are making errors at key times and throwing away a multitude of scoring opportunities as a result.  I’ve nearly pulled my hair out watching how, time and again, the Sharks knock-on, or give away penalties when they’re on the verge of scoring.  I won’t single out any individuals, but it is something that they need to concentrate on, and hard.  Scoring when you’re in the strike zone is a mark of successful teams, and the Sharks just aren’t doing it often enough.

So the missing link then is experienced leadership, discipline and attention to detail when it comes to the basics of rugby, all of which are related.  The answer?  I don’t know.  Someone somewhere once said, “Pat Lambie was born experienced.”  Perhaps it’s time to give the kid the armband and see if he can cut the mustard as captain.  I think he can.  Perhaps Al Hargreaves when he comes back from injury, even Jean Deysel has what it takes, I believe, to be a successful captain.  Only time will tell, but in the mean time I sincerely hope that at least two of the three missing links are attended to.  Discipline and the basics of the game.


  • So very true. That said, nobody seems to be making the excuse that we’ve been severely depleted by injury…

  • Comment 1, posted at 10.04.12 09:07:11 by MerckZ Reply
  • All true Quirk.

    The Sharks forwards have been playing very individual rugby and our breakdowns are just terrible.

  • Comment 2, posted at 10.04.12 09:07:52 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • I think we gotta give keegan the benefit if the doubt until at least the end of the super rugby and then judge him.

  • Comment 3, posted at 10.04.12 09:12:46 by RuckingFun Reply

  • Rumours flying around that Al Hargreaves has signed with Saracens

  • Comment 4, posted at 10.04.12 09:38:47 by slammerboy Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • “I won’t single out any individuals…”
    I will. Freddie Michalak going glory for the tryline twice only to lose the ball in a turnover. For the smallest player on the field to think he can barrage over the whitewash by himself is foolhardy at best.

  • Comment 5, posted at 10.04.12 09:41:10 by CapeShark Reply
    The Great Couch Shark
  • Its very true that something is missing, altho pin pointing exactly what is it is quite difficult. The 3 things that i feel need the biggest attention are: 1. The lack of leadership. 2. The defense 3. The preseason. Now 1 and 2 i think most will agree with me. The reason I highlight the preseason is because year after year we are told that the Sharks have had the hardest preseason ever, but if i look at their performance they look unfit and unconditioned compared to other sides in the competiton. Lets face facts, The Stormers,Bulls and Cheetahs to a degree look fitter and more physical than the Sharks currently.

  • Comment 6, posted at 10.04.12 09:44:22 by SheldonK Reply

  • @slammerboy (Comment 4) : source?

  • Comment 7, posted at 10.04.12 09:50:11 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Yes, leadership, but after some thought over the last few weeks, I’m starting to think we need to re look at our backline coach and maybe forwards coach? Other teams have ”defensive” coaches – maybe we should look at that too. The players are there no doubt about it.

  • Comment 8, posted at 10.04.12 09:52:59 by Caratacus Reply

  • The captain is just the main leader – not the only one. As much as I agree that Keegan has fallen way short of the mark, I struggle to find a single senior player who provided the necessary backbone to the team amidst all the pure incompetence.

    Due to an over-reliance on leaders like Smit, Oupa and Muller, the Sharks created a leadership vacuum, and are paying the price today.

    A form of the dreaded “Culture of the Big Man” is alive and well in Durban – but we neglected to prepare a new Big Man.

  • Comment 9, posted at 10.04.12 10:00:38 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • I’d like to see Pat captain the side – never seen him flap.
    I’d also like to see a new coach – tomorrow would be good! I know I’ll get thrown with heavy things with this but Dick Muir would be a welcome return: I remember when we had 11 Sharks in the Springbok 22!!

  • Comment 10, posted at 10.04.12 10:00:45 by MikeN Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : “@JasonSmith_1: George Kruis is quality young player. Can’t understand why Sarries have apparently signed Alistair Hargreaves 4 next season. Makes no sense.”

    He’s a rugby agent who works for World Artists I’m sure he has a decent source

  • Comment 11, posted at 10.04.12 10:01:36 by slammerboy Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • So in short, John Smit is the missing link? I’m sure he will want a word with you! 😉

  • Comment 12, posted at 10.04.12 10:13:03 by Rahul Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 6) : I was told that the sharks preseason is nothing compared to the lions. Even the training sessions are more intense. I dont know how true these statements are but they dont seem to be too far fetched.

  • Comment 13, posted at 10.04.12 10:36:50 by Ozbok Reply

  • @MikeN (Comment 10) : I also remember the destruction of two of the most prodigious backs in SA rugby history – Ruan and Frans. I also remember how he buggered Barrit around to the point were SA, nevermind the sharks, lost an international class player. I also remember a coach who takes both his captain and his kicker off with ten minutes of a Super 14 final to go. I also remember a coach under whom the Springbok backline were even more impotent than under Alistair. No, if Dick is involved with a team, I support the opposition.

  • Comment 14, posted at 10.04.12 10:44:35 by King Shark Reply
    King Shark
  • @King Shark (Comment 14) : Let us also not forget the shambles while he was DOR for the Lions.

    If I could throw Dick himself at @MikeN (Comment 10) : I would!!! 😈

  • Comment 15, posted at 10.04.12 11:01:01 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox
  • with john smit as captain the sharks have finished 6th, 9th & 6th in the past 3 years, so ja try another one i ain’t convinced!

    the sharks won both recent currie cups sans john smit, again try another one 🙄

  • Comment 16, posted at 10.04.12 11:13:44 by Megatron Reply

  • @Megatron (Comment 16) : Agreed, as much as I’m a fan of John he’s definitely not the answer we’re looking for here.

  • Comment 17, posted at 10.04.12 11:41:22 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Megatron (Comment 16) :

    I tend to agree with you Mega. I don’t think Keegan is a great captain but he is also not the main cause of the problems with the Sharks. There are coaching and mental problems that are worse than just the captaincy issue.

  • Comment 18, posted at 10.04.12 11:45:00 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Megatron (Comment 16) : Not saying he’s the answer, just saying they’re missing players like him, Oupa Stef and Johan Muller.

  • Comment 19, posted at 10.04.12 12:01:20 by The Quirk Reply
    The Quirk
  • Keegan may not be providing the leadership people are looking for, but he’s also on a hiding to nothing in the existing setup. Where’s the rest of the leadership corp? Look at any other union; it’s not just the captain that rallies or settles the troops, as the situation may require.

    It’s also a hell of a lot easier to grow into a leadership role when you have proper systems in place that you can put your trust in, when everyone understands what their job is, have been taught how to do the basics of said job, and when discipline has been instilled as a basic, non-negotiable value.

    The Sharks’ defensive system appears to have been devised by the homeless guy on the corner who drinks straight from a paint can and talks to the fairies. Ditto for structured attacking play, ruck technique, etc. etc. The less said about discipline the better.

    In my opinion the root of the problem lies not so much with the guys on the pitch (although they aren’t exactly blameless).

  • Comment 20, posted at 10.04.12 12:02:32 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song
  • Everyone knows Lambie will be our next great captain. Seeing that this season is already in the crapper, why doesnt Plum use the rest of it as captaincy experience for the nr 10? Come on, we have nothing to lose!

  • Comment 21, posted at 10.04.12 12:21:30 by jako Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    West Indies Cricket Board
  • @Pokkel (Comment 18) : @Culling Song (Comment 20) : from the latest SA Rugby mag

    Also in the new issue:

    – Keegan Daniel explains his people-driven approach to captaincy

    should be interesting 😛

  • Comment 22, posted at 10.04.12 12:22:20 by Megatron Reply

  • @The Quirk (Comment 19) : @Culling Song (Comment 20) : I understand what you’re both getting at, our senior players are not stepping up to lead as a unit and that will certainly help. CS has already mentioned what to me is the most important point: “the root of the problem lies not so much with the guys on the pitch” and as result the buck shouldn’t stop with them.

  • Comment 23, posted at 10.04.12 12:24:12 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @The Quirk (Comment 19) : it’s a double-edged sword innit? people crying about oupa terblanche’s “leadership” and at the same time happy about his departure as he was a liability @ centre and offered nothing on attack from fullback. 😕

  • Comment 24, posted at 10.04.12 12:24:25 by Megatron Reply

  • @Megatron (Comment 24) : It always is really… You can’t please everybody. I still believe the Sharks are very close to performing well. Everyone is focusing on the captaincy personnel part of the article when in truth it’s more about being cool under pressure and on field discipline.

  • Comment 25, posted at 10.04.12 12:30:47 by The Quirk Reply
    The Quirk
  • @The Quirk (Comment 25) : Or, to put it differently, keep the captain, can the coaches 😆

  • Comment 26, posted at 10.04.12 12:38:17 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song
  • @The Quirk (Comment 25) : how does one build big match temperament(“being cool under pressure and on field discipline.”) in a team?

  • Comment 27, posted at 10.04.12 12:42:52 by Megatron Reply

  • @Megatron (Comment 27) : Practice, practice, practice, and like i said in the article, “You can’t just replace players like that. Their successors must learn from experience, from being in tough situations where all looks lost or when they’re standing on that knife edge between success and failure.”

  • Comment 28, posted at 10.04.12 12:48:46 by The Quirk Reply
    The Quirk
  • @Megatron (Comment 27) :
    I don’t think its too hard in the professional era. Its the same as in any profession – its about culture, training and education, mentoring and coaching.

    My view is that the Sharks used the likes of Oupa etc as leaders only – not as teachers. In addition, there is not enough focus on building mental strength at the Sharks – everybody knows this story. Finally, you NEVER get the same “play for each other and the team” feel from the Sharks that you do from the likes of the Bulls, Stormers, Crusaders etc. Thats the culture that the union has failed to build.

  • Comment 29, posted at 10.04.12 12:51:45 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Pokkel (Comment 18) : 😈 Well before both our 2 loses on tour, Plum was not happy with the player’s attitude and he warned them before hand to be focused.

    There were 2 factors on Saturday: A lack of Discipline where the same players do stupid things and expose the team to pedantic calls and a NZ rugby referee system where their referees i.e Bryce Lawrence, Keith Brown and now Glen Jackson will blatantly cheat to throw games. There are several more instances where 50/50 calls were ridiculously made in favour on NZ / Aus teams. I will also not be told that their referee tutoring is that bad. The grey areas where they can make impractical and pedantic calls without repercussions are getting more and more and the way they approach the game, changes from week to week.

    It is very concerning that sports betting can be a real incentive for referees to turn a blind eye. This may be revealed in time just as international Cricket was exposed.
    The fact that Lawrence was decorated as the NZ ref of the year after ousting the Springboks shines like a beacon to state my case.
    SA teams must prepare with this in mind and need to be more aware of how the games will be adjudicated by these guys. The Sharks can not be blamed for the 3 calls by Jackson & co which lead to 2 tries and a penalty goal but we could have scored more if our discipline was up to scratch. 😈

  • Comment 30, posted at 10.04.12 17:57:27 by KILLER SHARK Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
  • The missing link?

    My 3 cents…

    It’s called succession planning. Yeah difficult in a pro game but not impossible – hell the Bulls, Stormers and even Cheetahs get this right.

    That ladies and gents, starts with the management of the team, identifying, nurturing and securing in long term contracts.

    Another problem is consistency in selection.

    Apart from the tight 5 players are shunted about from one position to the next in that team. This not only upsets the players themselves and their rhythm – but also that of the captain who has to adapt and adopt new strategies every single game, deal with new players in new positions and somehow keep it all together.

    Confidence in your ability as a player and captain also comes from some level of consistency and structure – the Sharks have none of these in place. And again – starts at the coaches.

    Lastly and arguably most importantly is trust between the players and playing for each other.

    I have always been a believer that you can judge team spirit in the way they defend, not only as individuals – but as a team. It is how you show commitment to the guy next to you, your coach, and the jersey.

    It was mentioned earlier on this thread Sharks seem to be individualistic and that is spot on. It is not that they don’t have heart and don’t want to win – they just need to know and figure out how to do this as a team…

  • Comment 31, posted at 10.04.12 18:27:50 by Morné Reply
  • Oh and the last point – put that down to the management as-well who is suppose to create this environment for the players.

    Don’t be too hard on your players folks – they are trying their hearts out. But I would spare no mercy for other areas within this union.

  • Comment 32, posted at 10.04.12 18:29:22 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 32) : 100% with u on the individualistic thing – I have said it before a few times (but what does a woman know) that we have brilliant individuals, they just need to be able to gel and play as a TEAM.

  • Comment 33, posted at 10.04.12 19:06:33 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Ice (Comment 33) :
    Apparently, a woman also doesn’t know when she is being ignored. 😈

  • Comment 34, posted at 10.04.12 19:28:19 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Ice (Comment 33) : @Big Fish (Comment 34) :

    Oweeee! Moer hom Ice!

  • Comment 35, posted at 10.04.12 19:50:01 by Morné Reply
  • @Big Fish (Comment 34) : that’s just so OLD school! Oh wait, u are also not a springchicken anymore!? OOPs! 😈

  • Comment 36, posted at 10.04.12 21:08:25 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • @Morné (Comment 35) : Hy’s bietjie dikkerig! Kan dalk my vuisie beseer! 😆

  • Comment 37, posted at 10.04.12 21:14:42 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • Lmao @ Big Fish! 😈

  • Comment 38, posted at 10.04.12 21:44:04 by wpw Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 32) : They are trying their hearts out!?!?!? 😆 :Bwhahahaha:

    I know some of them are (Lambie, Coetzee, Bismarck, etc.) but the majority of them don’t deserve the title “professional rugby player” at the moment.

  • Comment 39, posted at 11.04.12 06:50:02 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Bismarck is on his way back to SA…kyle is on his way to fill void.

  • Comment 40, posted at 11.04.12 07:33:21 by GreatSharksays Reply


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