Richard Ferguson

To be great again

Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby, Vodacom Cup on 24 Apr 2012 at 10:00
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We have heard it a million times, there is no ‘I’ in team, the more you practice, the luckier you get, and so it goes on, but none of these really seem to relate to the current Sharks setup, where there is a distinct lack of hunger within the ranks, and the problem is not limited to only the senior squad.

I have been in a very fortunate position to attend a lot of the games at Kings Park, and as a fan of the development of local talent, I generally make a plan to get to the Tank a little earlier, whether it be to watch the Vodacom Cup team, or the Currie Cup age group sides. Many feel, and I agree to a certain extent, that the Sharks have one of the better youth setups in the country, but our teams never prove that fact by way of winning any silverware.

The problem is of a similar nature to our senior side, with teams being inconsistent from one game to another, seemingly able to lift their game for the big matches, but fail to pitch for the smaller games. A few bloggers have mentioned this lack of a killer instinct in our senior side, but it was clearly evident in the Sharks XV match against the EP Kings this Saturday past.

As some of you might have witnessed, the Sharks XV ran out a lead of nearly twenty points, but failed to capitalise on a great start and then somehow managed to hang onto the lead late in the match, when all the momentum was with the visiting team. We have seen this many times with the senior side as well, and not only in the Super Rugby either. When last have the Sharks been able to put 60 to 80 points past a smaller franchise in the Currie Cup? This inability is not the fact that those smaller unions have now suddenly improved a lot, as we see the likes of the Bulls and Cheetahs still murdering sides left, right and centre.

The Sharks as a union, from their academy sides, U19, U21 and senior sides, all seem to have this rot of inconsistency, and the question begs… What can be done to rectify this? Surely a system can be put in place where the youngsters who form the future of Sharks rugby, are coached to the extent that this does not happen, whether you are playing a friendly against Boland or playing a semi-final match.

In my mind, it comes down to the coaching setup, and I am in no way blaming the current coach for this, as it has been a problem since before he even came to South Africa, and it is not something that can be fixed in a year, or even two. The problem is quite simple to illustrate really, when last did the Sharks promote from within its ranks, a coach for the senior side? I am young and can only really call on my experience over the last few years, but I cannot think of one instance where there was a succession plan in place.

This leads to two points that I want to raise. Firstly, not one coach that is involved in our junior ranks, or have been involved over the years, have been good enough to step up to coach the senior side, or even coach another union’s side. So if they are not good enough to one day be a head coach, why are we trusting them with our juniors?

The second point, which is not as dramatic as the first, is that there seems to be no plan at all for the inevitable, which is that at some point, whether it is this year or in three years’ time, the current coach will either leave on his own terms, or will be forced out. What happens then? Are we going to bounce from coach to coach until we find someone who can string two wins together? Why can we not earmark a coach, bring him in at U21 level and let him get to know the players he will one day coach?

I know full well that not many top coaches out there would agree to step back and coach the juniors at any union, and that this request for some forward planning will most likely fall on deaf ears, but wouldn’t it be great if we were great again? The sad reality is that being great does not come from putting a few great players together. I quote Babe Ruth – “The way a team plays as a whole determines its success. You may have the greatest bunch of individual stars in the world, but if they don’t play together, the club won’t be worth a dime.”


  • Am I crazy, or do you guys think that getting De Villiers in to help with the age group players a good idea? He’s a good player manager, and he did do well at age group level before?

  • Comment 1, posted at 24.04.12 10:08:13 by PTAShark Reply
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  • I would love John Smit to get involved in coaching ASAP. I believe he has all the attributes to make a great coach some day, obviously starting at the bottom and doing his dues. So in maybe 3-4 years time the Sharks could have a great coach

  • Comment 2, posted at 24.04.12 10:19:50 by Bokhoring Reply
  • Richard… I am actually speechless at this point.

    Best article you’ve yet written – and that’s saying a lot

  • Comment 3, posted at 24.04.12 10:33:43 by robdylan Reply
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  • Good points Rich.

    Its interesting to note that by contrast, the great Sharks teams of the ’90’s regularly put 50 points past teams.

    I can also remember a season where they didn’t lose a single game. The point is not that they were super-talented (which they were), but rather that they had the focus and discipline to be ruthless AND consistent.

    Our recent teams have the talent, but not those 2 key characteristics. The question is why, and I doubt any bunch of rugby coaches can figure that one out – you need specialist help for that.

  • Comment 4, posted at 24.04.12 10:37:56 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • Finally someone touches on the real issues plaguing the Sharks…

    Nice one Rich.

  • Comment 5, posted at 24.04.12 10:38:11 by Morné Reply
  • Richard, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head here. We definitely do not have consistency first at the Union therefore there is no hunger to win games. After the dismal performance of the weekend, I think that the Union should look into a couple of things ranging from who the contract(buy) for the teams and who gets to coach.

    Bill Taylor said…”Players win games and teams win tournaments”

    If you want to win a tournament….invest wisely. Do not buy a couple of old farts who frustrate all the fans and eventually land up with a stadium that is empty. Winning teams fill stadiums.

    So what I am actually trying to say is…..I think the Sharks union need to have a good look at their coaches, players and the people who are doing the bad contracting!!

  • Comment 6, posted at 24.04.12 10:41:03 by Kaygee Reply

  • Very, very, very good article Rich.

    And in a shameless act of self-promotion, here’s my take (again) on the coaching issue:

  • Comment 7, posted at 24.04.12 10:59:26 by Culling Song Reply
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    Culling Song
  • Good article. Lots of food for thought here.

    Spare a thought for the Stormers/WP who have won way less than the Sharks in the last decade despite having a plethora of Springbok coaches/assistant coaches on their books, and then throw in how all the winners of the Varsity Cup have until now come from that union.

    OK this article is about our woes and not theirs.

  • Comment 8, posted at 24.04.12 11:49:39 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • I have heard from a few guys who used to play on Sharks junior contracts a few years back that the way the players are treated especially the juniors is awful. No respect and no clues on what is expected of them in the future and no clues if they even have a future at the union.

  • Comment 9, posted at 24.04.12 11:59:50 by lostfish Reply
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  • @lostfish (Comment 9) : Also heard that. This week end I also hear disturbig news where is Beet and Ludz and Musi, apparently the Kriels have signed with the Bulls is this true ❓

  • Comment 10, posted at 24.04.12 12:09:52 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette
  • @lostfish (Comment 9) :

    Keep going – you are getting closer to the root of the problem…

  • Comment 11, posted at 24.04.12 12:18:59 by Morné Reply
  • @Sharksmad – The Blog’s Dudette (Comment 10) : Who are the Kriels?

  • Comment 12, posted at 24.04.12 12:36:15 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 12) : related to the Crays?

  • Comment 13, posted at 24.04.12 12:40:05 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 13) : Nooooo we cant let that type of mongrel go (if they were ours in the first place)

  • Comment 14, posted at 24.04.12 12:44:14 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 12) : Don´t they sing something about a train going to Pretoria?

  • Comment 15, posted at 24.04.12 12:46:24 by rhineshark Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 13) :

  • Comment 16, posted at 24.04.12 12:46:40 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @rhineshark (Comment 15) : Werent those the Briels / Brels

  • Comment 17, posted at 24.04.12 12:47:48 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 12) : Jesse and Daniel Kriel (twins) they are the Full back and Centre for Maritzburg College 1sts really, really good, Beet especially used to like these two boys!

  • Comment 18, posted at 24.04.12 12:49:51 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette
  • @lostfish (Comment 9) : Was told that very thing by a friend whose son was at the Sharks juniors – most unhappy as he felt that the youngster was being buggered around and that his talent was not allowed to develop to its full potential. Kid has since gone on to “other” pastures and seems to be doing rather well 🙄

  • Comment 19, posted at 24.04.12 12:52:08 by diablo Reply

  • @Sharksmad – The Blog’s Dudette (Comment 18) : Thanks.
    BTW did you get your Lire/euros?

  • Comment 20, posted at 24.04.12 12:52:21 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 17) : O ja! 😀

  • Comment 21, posted at 24.04.12 12:54:17 by rhineshark Reply
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  • There may not be an ‘I’ in team, but there’s 3 in ‘Schizophrinia’. that might be applicable to our situation at the moment.

  • Comment 22, posted at 24.04.12 12:57:09 by Crock Reply

  • @Salmonoid (Comment 20) : Indeed I did 🙂 and have my tickets 😀 Not sure I am all that keen to use them though 😥

    Don’t worry I’ll be all faith again by nexte week Wednesday 🙂

  • Comment 23, posted at 24.04.12 13:10:30 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette
  • @Sharksmad – The Blog’s Dudette (Comment 23) : 😎

  • Comment 24, posted at 24.04.12 13:11:58 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Sharksmad – The Blog’s Dudette (Comment 23) : Methinks that you will be pleasantly surprised. The break is going to do them the world of good and there will be no looking back from here on. :mrgreen:

  • Comment 25, posted at 24.04.12 13:14:56 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 3) :
    @Big Fish (Comment 4) :
    @Morné (Comment 5) :
    @Culling Song (Comment 7) :

    Thanks guys..

  • Comment 26, posted at 24.04.12 13:25:56 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • @Crock (Comment 22) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 27, posted at 24.04.12 13:31:08 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 11) : There is way more to it. These problems have plagued the Sharks for many years.

  • Comment 28, posted at 24.04.12 14:38:17 by lostfish Reply
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  • Me thinks this: Durban has a strong ‘laid-back’ culture, the guys have adopted a ‘casual’ attitude overall. Which in normal life is quite cool.

    However, not in business, which rugby happens to be. Now you need a strong coach to gel those ‘laid-back’ guys into a ruthless machine. It will take a special kind of ‘mental’ coach.

    @Big Fish (Comment 4) : Who then sir, was the coach during these happy times? :mrgreen:

  • Comment 29, posted at 24.04.12 14:38:22 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox
  • Oh and yea, good article Richard 😀

  • Comment 30, posted at 24.04.12 14:40:42 by Silver Fox Reply

    Silver Fox
  • @lostfish (Comment 28) :

    Strangely as this article was written and posted I had an off-line conversation about this very issue.

    I will say it again – changing coaches or captains will not solve the problem. You might get some short term success but come next year you guys will be writing about exactly the same stuff again.

  • Comment 31, posted at 24.04.12 18:12:32 by Morné Reply
  • @PTAShark (Comment 1) : When I read the article I was think the same thing.

  • Comment 32, posted at 24.04.12 20:12:27 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • We might ask Campo to help in the short term.

  • Comment 33, posted at 24.04.12 20:21:17 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • @GreatSharksays (Comment 33) : might need to ask

  • Comment 34, posted at 24.04.12 20:22:48 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • @GreatSharksays (Comment 34) : Wanted to ask about him. Saw a doccy on SS this weekend about him, and almost the whole time he is wearing Sharks gear. Why?

  • Comment 35, posted at 24.04.12 21:13:31 by Die Kriek Reply

  • That was a doccy made for world cup and was old footage, but I saw on the Legends programme last night that Campo and family are back and living in Durban – he reckons life in SA is as good if not better than Aussie & a lot cheaper.

  • Comment 36, posted at 24.04.12 22:38:34 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • A complete mental paradigm shift is required in the way the Sharks and every other Sharks team (Vodacom and age groups) approach the game.

    Drill the following into EVERY player who dons the Sharks jersey:

    1. Defeat is NOT an option.
    2. Be RUTHLESS.
    3. Crave CONSISTENCY in performance.
    4. Fortune favours the BRAVE.
    5. NO player is BIGGER than the team.

    Instil this philosophy in Kings Park. Put these basic (non-negotiable) tenets up in every change room. Remind the players of this EVERY time they put on the jersey. Instil this in every Sharks’ psyche. Make this the norm.

    I am sick and tired of seeing Sharks teams scraping home to “edge of the seat” wins, or losing the close games. I cannot recall the last time the Sharks put a team to the sword.

    I also do not appreciate the philosophy we saw from the team last year where they were content to do only enough to maintain a “mathematical chance” of making the play offs, and seemed content to scrape their way into 6th place. Big deal. It seems we are in for the SAME philosophy this season…

  • Comment 37, posted at 24.04.12 23:46:03 by siorc Reply

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  • @siorc (Comment 37) : If we still have a ‘mathematical chance’ by round 16, I fear our season will be deemed good enough, and not much will change.

    There must be something more we as fans can do to get the change we so desperately need!

    I want to be proud to wear my Sharks shirts, not defiant!

  • Comment 38, posted at 25.04.12 07:03:06 by Die Kriek Reply

  • @siorc (Comment 37) :

    It is fine to ask all that of the players.

    But it should start with the management team – at every level with every team.

  • Comment 39, posted at 25.04.12 09:08:21 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 39) : Morné, you’re frustrating the living crap out of me here; you’re creating the impression that you have some inside info or insight into the Sharks’ woes that you’re not sharing. Spit it out, man!!

  • Comment 40, posted at 25.04.12 10:09:07 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 40) :

    @Culling Song (Comment 40) :


    No inside info buddy.

    I was discussing this issue with Rob yesterday and it centered around just what Richard put forward here. It was actually weird, I thought he hacked into our conversation.

    IN short…

    From where I sit the model under which the Sharks operate is wrong. I compared it yesterday to a bunch of twigs for pillars holding up a concrete mansion where renovations and improvements are only made to the mansion on top with little to no regard to the pillars which holds this up in the first place.

    In rugby terms. The Sharks are throwing money at the top end of the union (Super Rugby team) ignoring the feeding and support structures of the union (academy, age group teams etc.).

    I was shocked to learn that the union does not employ coaches at age-group and junior levels on a permanent basis, but that they are paid per game!!!

    If you want to instill a culture (as mentioned quite a number of times above) in a team it HAS to start at the levels that feeds the top side – not the other way around.

    Where the Sharks academy was once the envy of all unions in South Africa there is hardly a whisper of them these days, and the quality of coaches/instructors they employ and the quality of youngsters they produce.

    Then there is the issue of the age group teams, Vodacom Cup team. These structures is the heartbeat of the union and they are terribly neglected!

    How can you expect consistency from players when the coaches or management is not permanently employed and is changed every year?

    How can you expect Plum and his team to put together succession plans with coaches (and I was told he did try) at various levels at the union when those guys are fighting game-to-game just for survival?

    If players and coaches at these lower levels see no long term future for them at the union how can you expect loyalty, passion and commitment from them to the union?

    It is almost a case that if you are not lucky enough to be fast-tracked to the senior team as a youngster (usually when there is an injury only) in this union you might as well look at alternative unions and teams because the gaps at senior level is constantly filled by mercenaries or experience (but mainly over the hill or average) players.

    That is why you guys don’t see and level of pride, commitment, consistency and succession planning at the Sharks – the union is top heavy.

    I would go as far as an outsider to say at times it seems the Sharks consider the commercial value of a player (his name) more than the production value (as a player) when they look to recruit.

    You all blame the coaches and players accusing them of having no pride in the jersey and no commitment to the union but you are venting your anger at the wrong people!

    I have seen this before. In fact, I have experienced this before. WP rugby was exactly the same – in fact, in many ways they are (and I fear will head back to it soon).

    A couple of years ago when Rassie removed himself from coaching and brought Allister in, his focus as the ‘manager of coaches’ shifted to the youth structures within WP rugby. Only now does WP reap the benefit of this. Look at their youngsters playing Super Rugby now – consider the average age of their forwards and tight 5. Just this week they flew a guy over to Perth that played Varsity Cup last year!

    Rassie could be seen on the sideline at every U/21 and U/19 game in the last couple of years while Allister took care of the senior side.

    The Sharks need a director of coaching or rugby. A guy to ensure the correct structures are in place to support the senior team and Plum – not work against them as is currently the case!

    But if you really want to blame a guy for this mess, there is one you can look to and one I am pretty sure you all know without me having to tell you.

  • Comment 41, posted at 25.04.12 10:44:19 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 41) : The guy doing the impression of Mr Potato Head or the chief honcho?

  • Comment 42, posted at 25.04.12 10:49:29 by Bokhoring Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 41) : Please restrict the essays to articles only… 😆

  • Comment 43, posted at 25.04.12 10:55:24 by Ice Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 41) : You referring to Oom Staaldraad?

  • Comment 44, posted at 25.04.12 10:55:35 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 41) : Yowza!!! Was not aware of the magnitude of the mess our junior programs are in 😯 !!

    You are of course right; without taking concrete steps to address this, all other actions will be like attempting to stop an avalanche, for all the good it will do.

  • Comment 45, posted at 25.04.12 10:56:14 by Culling Song Reply
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    Culling Song
  • @Morné (Comment 41) :

    I agree but just recently Rob wrote an article congratulating the Sharks franchise on the numbers of players in the Sharks S15 squad that came through the ranks. Maybe the problem has more to do with communication that anything else.

    It would seem that the Sharks need to do what Heyneke is doing at the moment.

  • Comment 46, posted at 25.04.12 10:56:35 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Silver Fox (Comment 29) : Cape Town has a ” laid back culture” as well but the Stormers still get results . . .

  • Comment 47, posted at 25.04.12 11:00:00 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Morné (Comment 41) :

    Dude, I honestly wish to have the writing skills you have one day when I grow up!!

    You took what I was trying to say, and put it across in such a perfect way..

  • Comment 48, posted at 25.04.12 11:06:25 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • @Bokhoring (Comment 42) : @vanmartin (Comment 44) :

    The one and only.

    @Culling Song (Comment 45) :

    Don’t get me wrong, the Sharks will still get the odd great result, reach the odd semi or hell even a title here and there.

    But if I read the fans concerns correctly over the last couple of weeks consistency and some form of succession plan is what everyone is identifying as issues.

    If you want to stop this rollercoaster ride of on top of the world one weekend after a great win and down in the dumps the next because of a shit performance, then address these issues.

    @Pokkel (Comment 46) :

    I did not see the article, my discussion was with Rob yesterday so perhaps he is the best guy to answer that angle to the theory?

    @Richard Ferguson (Comment 48) :

    Nah dude, your article above was pretty damn good.

    It says exactly what we were saying yesterday perhaps without being so direct about it! 🙂

  • Comment 49, posted at 25.04.12 12:02:21 by Morné Reply
  • Rich’s quote at the end of the article is important.

    But what is important is that where he mentions ‘team’ don’t just consider the Sharks senior Super Rugby team. The ‘club’ or union in this case are all those players and coaches involved from the academy, through the age groups, semi-pro teams to the pro team. They all need to work together – that is what will make for a great Sharks team.

    And the Sharks have all the ingredients in place – it is simply a case of (I believe) just one individual to bring it together.

  • Comment 50, posted at 25.04.12 12:05:48 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 49) : I don’t see the two things as contradictory. There ARE a lot of Sharks Academy boys in the team now and most of them are doing well. Reality is, though, that they wouldn’t be there if it hadn’t been for injuries opening the door and then taking their chances well. Most, if not all of those boys have already spent time waiting in line behind journeymen in the past as well.

  • Comment 51, posted at 25.04.12 12:08:49 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 49) :

  • Comment 52, posted at 25.04.12 12:08:59 by Pokkel Reply
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