At sixes and sevens

Written by Pierre McLeod (pierre_mackie)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 4 May 2015 at 09:39
Tagged with : , , ,

To be “at sixes and sevens” is an idiom used to describe the Sharks’ defensive system in Super Rugby.

No not really, but I had you there for a second. To be “at sixes and sevens” is actually a British idiom used to describe a state of confusion or disarray, a lot like the Sharks’ defence this year.

Defence is often measured by the amount of tries you concede in a game or a season. The Sharks are currently tenth on the Super Rugby log after eleven matches, with four wins and seven losses. They have scored 216 points which includes twenty two tries and conceded 289 points which includes thirty one tries. The only other team which has conceded that amount of tries are the Reds who are second last on the log.

The Sharks suffered their seventh loss on the weekend when they faced the Highlanders in Dunedin. They conceded 7 tries in their 48 – 15 defeat, which become a bit embarrassing for the visitors as it looked like the Sharks were a few players less on the field. Note that no cards were awarded to the Sharks, a huge improvement on previous games.

A few weeks earlier the Sharks conceded 8 tries in another embarrassing defeat to Crusaders in a 52 – 10 loss at home. In two previous games the Sharks conceded 4 tries against the Bulls and 4 tries against the Cheetahs in their opener.

As much as the onus is on the players, as they are the ones on the field and making the tackles, or in this case missing the tackles, there are also people behind the scenes making sure the players know what to do as soon as they run onto the field.

At the start of the 2015 season the Sharks signed Michael Horak as their defence coach, after he was released from his five-year contract at the Eastern Province Kings after just one season.

The Kings conceded 53 tries in their first season back in the Currie Cup Premier Division after a twelve year spell in the B Division. The second most tries conceded were from Griquas, 41. In Horak’s defence, using the Kings is probably not the best example, but taking a team from conceding 22 tries in the whole of the 2014 Super Rugby season to 31 after just 11 games in 2015 is a huge concern.

Defence is not the only problem at the Sharks, and getting a new defence coach or head coach might not even be the answer, as discipline and what seems like a lack of passion and eagerness can also contribute to their current poor form.

Taking it out on the players and pointing fingers will not help anyone at this stage, but something drastically needs to be done and if it is as simple as replacing players that are not adding value or replacing a member of the coaching staff so be it. At the end of the day it’s not personal, it’s rugby, and no one wants to support a losing team.


  • What is John Smit going to do to fix this mess that we call the Sharks? I want something from him.

  • Comment 1, posted at 04.05.15 09:47:12 by JarsonX Reply
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  • I’ll go as far as stating that I’ll support a losing team. It does however become challenging to justify that decision when the team has both the means and resources to improve the situation. Supporting a team that does not live up to its potential is the tough sell.

    This team may not have the potential to win the SR trophy this season but they do have the potential to perform way better than they are.

  • Comment 2, posted at 04.05.15 09:48:56 by vanmartin Reply
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  • Must say our defence is laughable. The worst thing is it’s the holes week in and week out, there doesn’t seem to be improvement at all. The highlanders scrummie broke from around the ruck at will, and that gap has been there the whole season. First people who should be sent packing is Horak and the backline coach, seeing as they aren’t doing anything it seems.

  • Comment 3, posted at 04.05.15 09:49:43 by Dragnipur Reply
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  • @JarsonX (Comment 1) : me too, I want him, in his infinite wisdom to tell us who or what he believes started this fkup. and if he uses the word “rebuilding” I might just lose my fking mind. We were never in a situation where we had to rebuild. All we had to do was fine tune.

  • Comment 4, posted at 04.05.15 09:52:07 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
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  • “like a lack of passion and eagerness can also contribute to their current poor form.”

    If the defence coach shows a lack of passion and commitment in training sessions, the players will adapt that.
    Same for vice versa. The players will adapt a committed attitude if the coach shows it during training.

    I don’t believe the issue is with the players.
    I also don’t think the issue is with John, Gary or Brendan.
    Imo, the issue is with everyone below them.

  • Comment 5, posted at 04.05.15 09:52:15 by SharksRTB Reply

  • @vanmartin (Comment 2) : Supporting a team that seems to be worse each week is the nut punch in this situation. I thought we’d struggle this year with another new coach and all, but I at least expected the team to do incrementally better. This isn’t currently the case. We are getting worse in all departments.

    I know we have a boatload of injuries, but hell, there are players who would play their hearts out for the jersey. Pick them, not the journeymen who plauge the team sheets every week. I’m looking at you Hoffman and Murray.

  • Comment 6, posted at 04.05.15 09:52:53 by Dragnipur Reply
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  • Does this horak oke have a good friend at the Sharks – seems like it to me :mrgreen:

  • Comment 7, posted at 04.05.15 09:53:23 by RedSharkUtd82 Reply

  • And please correct me if I’m wrong, didn’t Horak start with the Cheetahs? They’ve never been known much for defence. I gave the dude the benefit of the doubt when he was appointed, but not any more. They should steal his passport, give him a sleeping tablet and leave him in Oz.

  • Comment 8, posted at 04.05.15 09:54:48 by Dragnipur Reply
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  • @Dragnipur (Comment 8) : He actually did pretty well during his tenure with the Cheetahs. I suspect the Sharks hire was based on his time spent there.

  • Comment 9, posted at 04.05.15 09:56:46 by vanmartin Reply
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  • “At the start of the 2015 season the Sharks signed Michael Horak as their defence coach, after he was released from his five-year contract at the Eastern Province Kings after just one season.”

    When someone is released after one year of their five year contract surely there is a HUGE RED FLAG raised next to his name when his name is on the list of potential candidates for the job as defence coach? #JustSaying 😉

  • Comment 10, posted at 04.05.15 09:58:52 by RedSharkUtd82 Reply

  • Michael HORriblykAK

  • Comment 11, posted at 04.05.15 09:59:53 by JarsonX Reply
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  • We want to know from Saad:

    Why did you pick a 36yr old rugby player to be ceo?

    Why did you let him employ coaches from 2nd tier rugby schools to coach the Sharks?

    Why did you employ a guy who was twice asked to leave european clubs to coach the sharks?

    Why did you employ a guy who failed at the kings and cheetahs to coach D at the sharks?

    Why did you employ a guy who doesnt live in durban as a technical director, when he is not technically available to direct anything?

    Why do you buy 35 yr old players and let Jesse Kriel and Whiteley and du Preez go?

    Why do you not let your coaches pick their own assistants?

    Why do you allow your coaches to go on supersport and say they forgot to coach defense? which is 50% of rugby.

  • Comment 12, posted at 04.05.15 10:01:12 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
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  • Coming up in next week’s circus act. The sharks break this week’s record and lose by an even greater margin. With welcome returns of such crowd pleasers as Conrad let me get out of your way so you can score a try Hoffman. Waylon please don’t hurt me I won’t try to tackle you Murray. Matt where did I leave my bucket of kfc stevens. Odwa wait for me you guys Ndugane and Andre pass it softly I don’t want to drop it Esterhuizen. Unfortunately we won’t be delighted by Kobus Wait ok es I think I can win this one by myself Reinach and his amazing act of making ball possession disappear. All of this backed up by an amazing clown act of Gary gold John smit and the elusive or lesser spotted Mr Venter

  • Comment 13, posted at 04.05.15 10:04:06 by coolfusion Reply

  • Oh I forgot to add JP “do not disturb I’m sleeping” Pietersen.

  • Comment 14, posted at 04.05.15 10:08:39 by coolfusion Reply

  • @West Indies Cricket Board (Comment 12) : I have seen Venter called either a technical advisor or a technical director. My understanding is also that this is not a long term appointment. So I see Venter more in the advisory role than as a director – i.e. the consultant who waltzes in now and then, gives some new ideas to the coaching staff and acts as a sounding board.

    Gold is the Director of Rugby – meaning he is responsible for all things rugby in the union – from youth rugby, club rugby, u/20’s all the way to the Super 15 team. At the moment he is also (or mainly) the head coach of the Super team.

    Now contrast that with the Stormers/WP (Coetzee head coach, Small DOR), Lions (Ackermann head coach, Straeuli DOR) – where the DOR does not coach at all.

  • Comment 15, posted at 04.05.15 10:15:24 by Bokhoring Reply
  • Good article Pierre.

  • Comment 16, posted at 04.05.15 10:17:43 by StevieS Reply
  • For us to have at least the slightest chance against the canes we need:
    Ungerer at 9. S’bu at 13. Mvovo at 15. For starters.

  • Comment 17, posted at 04.05.15 10:19:41 by Another Nick Reply

    Another Nick
  • It honestly seems that the coaching team sits and waits for Venter to fly into town to come and do some actual coaching, and then sits on their thumbs until he comes back one day (who knows when).

  • Comment 18, posted at 04.05.15 10:21:02 by Bokhoring Reply
  • jeez, I am quite lost for words and really don’t have anything to defend the team to my Bulls family. we watched the other SA games in my bar and I could not get over the sadness when comparing the passion and energy from those two games vs what the Sharks dished up this season so far.

    I have a signed 2010 team jersey and it is shocking looking at the players on it vs this season Beast, Smit, Jannie, Johan Muller, Sykes, Deysel, Keagan, Alberts, Charl, Freddy, Frans, Stefan, Lwazi, JP, Percy, Skinstad, Botes, Bissie, Kanko

    Forwards not that different in names but what strikes me is the form of the forwards and especially the backline quality. This jersey is my precious but he current crop is not worthy to pull a Sharks jersey on.

    To be honest if the CEO does not join the team and provides his legendary leadership qualities ASAP, I will post this jersey to him along with an open letter pleading for action / falling on sward – anything positive that puts this great side first

  • Comment 19, posted at 04.05.15 10:23:30 by Kabouter Reply

  • @Another Nick (Comment 17) : the trick for saturday is to find out who went highest on the ‘canes in your superbru pool. Then wait til the last minute and go 1 point higher in order to get the bonus point.

  • Comment 20, posted at 04.05.15 10:24:18 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
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  • Sh!t guys.. how bad has it become that we go watch Sharks games, and hoping we don’t lose by too much. No talks of wins or victories, that is the talk of mad men; completely out of the window. No, if we can just lose within 7 points to get one measly bonus point, that would be somehow ok. It breaks my heart.

  • Comment 21, posted at 04.05.15 10:26:08 by Another Nick Reply

    Another Nick
  • @StevieS (Comment 16) : Thanks 😉

  • Comment 22, posted at 04.05.15 10:32:23 by pierre_mackie Reply
  • @West Indies Cricket Board (Comment 20) : Ha! Will have to give it a try. Though I fear you will at least have to go 10 points higher in order to get the bonus point.

  • Comment 23, posted at 04.05.15 10:33:25 by Another Nick Reply

    Another Nick
  • Any one know what’s happening with Claasens?

  • Comment 24, posted at 04.05.15 10:42:43 by coolfusion Reply

  • I really do understand that not everything can be perfect and work 100% all the time. But there is no evidence of a plan on defense. No intensity. All we want to see is a well thought out plan executed as best the players can. At the moment the Sharks just sit back and hope someone makes a big hit.

  • Comment 25, posted at 04.05.15 11:00:18 by SheldonK Reply

  • @JarsonX (Comment 1) : The only way for him to fix it is for him to go on a permanent MTN bike ride.

  • Comment 26, posted at 04.05.15 11:31:06 by Uli Boelie Reply
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  • I say bull crap. If the cheetahs can beat the stormers with a depleted team we should be able to win at least more than half our games. No excuse about which players we have available we should have been able to put up some fight. It all points to management and coaching and this is the one area where there is no change or commitment.

  • Comment 27, posted at 04.05.15 11:39:01 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 24) : If I was him I’d run and hide! European champs to 11th in Superugby…

  • Comment 28, posted at 04.05.15 11:39:25 by Southern_Shark Reply
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  • @West Indies Cricket Board (Comment 12) : I think Saad’s answer will be something along the lines of “money”.

    They appointed John Smit as a PR stunt to get bigger sponsorships – that part seemingly panned out….


    Smit went on to fire Plum – That cost the Sharks money
    Smit got JW – Paid Jake’s Brumbies fees, and then fired Jake…more money down the drain.

    Smit fired (or “let go”) a far few other management staff – more money.

    Therefore, Smit burned through so much money (for which the Sharks can show absolutely nothing), that the franchise can probably only afford second-rate no-name red-hanger-sale coaches and players.

    Why Smit was allowed to burn through this much money – I wouldn’t know. 😯

  • Comment 29, posted at 04.05.15 11:45:30 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • Make John director of mountain biking? Sounds like a plan. And Mr Venter? Maybe he can be director of apologies which leaves a vacancy for tech director. Too many directors and too little Indians…or actual coaches in this case…if we trim down to one head coach and 2 assistant coaches how much do they save in salary. Can that money buy a real coach? Add to that the paycheck for JP Murray Hoffman and friends maybe we can get Freddie Michalak to pair with Claasens on halfback for this season while we educate Unger er and Co.

  • Comment 30, posted at 04.05.15 11:46:59 by coolfusion Reply

  • You’re cracking me up coolfusion!

  • Comment 31, posted at 04.05.15 11:54:39 by Feather Reply

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  • @coolfusion (Comment 30) : How many teams actually has a technical director?

    I still would not mind Venter as a DOR, but he does not want to commit full-time to the Sharks. Then there is no point having him around as well.

  • Comment 32, posted at 04.05.15 11:57:02 by Bokhoring Reply
  • @Bokhoring (Comment 32) : depends how much he gets paid doesn’t it? Perhaps the title “Consultant” would be more appropriate for his seemingly ad hoc advice.

  • Comment 33, posted at 04.05.15 12:00:57 by Feather Reply

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  • @Bokhoring (Comment 32) : When you figure out how many teams employ a school coach as head coach, you’ll be able to find that answer 😉

  • Comment 34, posted at 04.05.15 12:01:11 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 34) : not even an “elite” rugby playing school at that either…

  • Comment 35, posted at 04.05.15 12:03:43 by Feather Reply

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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 34) : You obviously never read my previous post,Kitch Christie,Jake White,Graham Henry,all school masters and schoolboy coaches.
    Thats three world cups for three school coaches.

  • Comment 36, posted at 04.05.15 12:11:01 by The hound Reply
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    The hound
  • “Taking it out on the players and pointing fingers will not help anyone at this stage”

    I disagree, these are massively paid individuals and they have to be held accountable to we who help pay those massive salaries. The minute we fall into the “shame don’t blame them” way of things is when no change comes. And we need change, badly.


  • Comment 37, posted at 04.05.15 12:14:47 by Mephisto_Shark Reply

  • @The hound (Comment 36) : So enlighten me Hound…which school’s did they coach, and what was their progression from school’s rugby to professional senior rugby?

    If you want that to work, there needs to be an incremental progression through the ranks…School’s rugby >>> Club Rugby >>> Varsity/Age Group >>> CC rugby/International u/20 >>> Super Rugby Franchise head coach >>> DoR >>> International Coach

  • Comment 38, posted at 04.05.15 12:19:56 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @The hound (Comment 36) : I agree for sure. School teachers can be brilliant at managing men. But Graham Henry didnt go from auckland grammar staight to auckland blues. No way

  • Comment 39, posted at 04.05.15 12:22:41 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 38) : yes

  • Comment 40, posted at 04.05.15 12:23:39 by West Indies Cricket Board Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 38) : Todd Blackadder won the Super rugby trophy in his first year as a coach,so that blows your argument to shit.
    Your question was how many teams employ a school coach as a head coach,I gave you three examples.
    Paul Anthony coached the Bulls under 21 for many years,Brad was a great Sharks rugby player,and had a career at Investec and only went to coach Hilton because as the most expensive school in the country they were able to better his salary.
    Sean Everitt was the Vodacom cup coach at the Sharks,and won the National club championships,so none of them came straight from school.

  • Comment 41, posted at 04.05.15 12:30:39 by The hound Reply
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  • @West Indies Cricket Board (Comment 39) : Henry went straight from Kelston Boys to coach Auckland in the NPC in 1992. He then coached the Blues in Super 12 from 1996. However not every school boy coach is a Graham Henry.

    Other ex school coaches include Heyneke Meyer and Frans Ludeke. However most of them spent a lot of time at lower levels before being elevated to coaching a Super franchise.

  • Comment 42, posted at 04.05.15 12:38:51 by Bokhoring Reply
  • Let me ask a question. Forget about Kitch.

    Do we as the Sharks expect our assistants to be such rookies and do we expect all of them to be rookies?

    Ok that’s 2 questions.

    Here’s a 3rd. Would we be better placed with vastly more experienced assistants, perhaps assistants with a track record of success?

    I know who I’d rather have. I know who I expect a team like the Sharks to appoint.

    But as Greenaway makes xlear, the Sharks had no money when Smit took over. That’s why we have the flops.

  • Comment 43, posted at 04.05.15 12:42:27 by Feather Reply

    Gold's Member
  • @The hound (Comment 41) : You defend BMH almost as though you are family of his 🙄

  • Comment 44, posted at 04.05.15 12:54:44 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • Maybe a simple title will ensure we simply get a head coach an assistant coach for forwards and assistant coach for backs. Then let the coaches do the talent acquisition themselves. Back to basics. And the ceo stays out of the technical bits and runs the commercial end.

  • Comment 45, posted at 04.05.15 12:55:16 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 45) : A DOR is actually essential for a successful team nowadays. You need someone who overseas all things rugby (playing style, acquisitions, coaching, etc) from youth levels to the top teams, whereas the head coach should concentrate on the team he is responsible for.

  • Comment 46, posted at 04.05.15 12:59:29 by Bokhoring Reply
  • Clearly this is not the kind of thing that will work at the sharks whether or not it’s a standard at other clubs or not. So either Gold is a lower level operator i.e just plain coach or the d.o.r. thing does not fit with the current coaching staff since they aren’t qualified to operate on their own I. E. They still need training. So for things to work for the club fire gold or fire his staff or simplify the structure for him and his staff to work in.

  • Comment 47, posted at 04.05.15 13:08:20 by coolfusion Reply

  • The amount of TV advertisement s lately doesn’t seem like the sharks have a lack of money. Maybe less ads and more fixing flops? Seems like a whole bunch of nice deals for John Brendan Gary and friends and screw the team funds.

  • Comment 48, posted at 04.05.15 13:11:51 by coolfusion Reply

  • @West Indies Cricket Board (Comment 12) : eish well put and that sums up this mess

  • Comment 49, posted at 04.05.15 13:33:25 by benji Reply
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  • @coolfusion (Comment 13) : classic also very well put

  • Comment 50, posted at 04.05.15 13:35:51 by benji Reply
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  • @Another Nick (Comment 17) : nah mate you need a miracle

  • Comment 51, posted at 04.05.15 13:37:42 by benji Reply
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  • I will always be 100% Shark 100% of the time!!!!!!! But that does not mean I will be watching their dismal play for the rest of the season!!!!!

  • Comment 52, posted at 04.05.15 18:04:03 by JD Reply
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