2015: a team failure needs a team response

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 15 Oct 2015 at 12:00
Tagged with : , , , ,

As fans who’ve endured the worst year, results wise, in at least a decade of Sharks rugby, it’s perhaps inevitable that the last few months of 2015 will be spent in deep contemplation, trying desperately to work out what went wrong and to seek out some signs of hope for the future. Even more inevitable, I guess, will be the temptation to look for obvious scapegoats – to identify one or more individuals on whom we can pin this season-long disappointment, whose departures we can attempt to engineer, whose names we can besmirch in the hope that their removal might suddenly result in a 2016 upswing.

I too have allowed myself to dabble in this sort of thinking over the last few weeks, as the poor results have continued to roll in and no major signs of improvement have been forthcoming. You need to be very careful, though, not to get to married to an idea or an explanation for what’s going on and let that blind you to any other inputs. I’ve been doing some thinking over the last few days and come to a rather different (if no less palatable) conclusion; the Sharks woes are unfortunately not something that we can place at the door of one or two individuals and I’m afraid that despite the temptation to look at knee-jerk firings as a quick fix, these are unlikely to do anything other than make things worse.

Where we are right now, in my view, is the very complex result of a large number of factors over the past few years. The Sharks, in a nutshell, really have screwed up in a lot of different areas. Some of those fall squarely at the feet of “management” – the revolving door recruitment policy that has seen up to 30% player turnover from one campaign to the next, the reliance on imports and journeymen while young talent is allowed to leave, the failure to ensure any sort of continuity in the coaching systems, and the list goes on. Junior structures are not healthy (as evidenced by the under 19 and also Vodacom Cup results this year) and again, we can look at zero continuity there as a result of changes in personnel at the Academy, recruitment and junior coaching teams.

There are things for which we can and should hold the coaches to account; chronic defensive lapses tend to be top of mind in this area, but there is no shortage of other issues with the on-field showing, for which Gary Gold and his assistants must take the blame. Holding them solely responsible, though, would be unfair. They do what they can during the week and live or die by the decisions they make leading up to the kick off, but it’s the players who need to knuckle down and deliver during the 80 minutes that matter. We can (and should) look at the player corps and ask questions about the quality that we have – however, we cannot and should not hide from those instances where players have let themselves, their team mates, their coaches and their fans down, through delivering performances that are simply not commensurate with their abilities.

In a nutshell, the Sharks failure of 2015 is something for which everyone involved has to take a level of accountability and which is going to require a unified, joined-up and far-reaching response in order to rectify. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will dive into each of these issues in more depth to try to find some more concrete answers, but I warn you now that “simply” removing Gary Gold, John Smit, or any other scapegoat of the day is highly unlikely to make things any better in the short – or even medium – term.


  • Every team will go through a bad patch. The Sharks have pretty much been on an upward curve since the 1990s, probably starting a couple years prior to that but ill use that as a starting point. So from then until now (25yrs) the Sharks have been on that upward curve. Yes there was the Kevin Putt coaching blip but the Sharks moved through that and grew stronger. And i feel the same situation is happening now. Unfortunately in todays world, much like the players we want instant fame and success and we want it right now no matter what. Its very tough to constantly live up to that no matter which team you support

  • Comment 1, posted at 15.10.15 12:14:54 by SheldonK Reply
  • I would love to see Rob de Preeze and James Small join up in a coaching capacity while Gold steps into the DOR role.

  • Comment 2, posted at 15.10.15 12:23:45 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • I know that this is not the popular view but I think Smit just that maybe the structures are not in place to implement the plan. as far as I know the standard operation for a DOR is to select a coach (not be a coach… and the head coach should then select , maybe with approval, his support staff) but i am not sure if Gold or White (or what ever colour comes next) has that authority… hopefully Smit can get everyone on board (at the admin level) and then the DOR can sit and focus on new talent while the head coach can nurture the talent in hand and the sharks will be back in the fight. I wont lie this Currie Cup was shocking but even with poor results we almost made it into the quarter final… this has to be a good sign although I am not expecting to win the Super tournament next season I do expect us to be stronger contenders.

  • Comment 3, posted at 15.10.15 12:28:42 by Warren Harvey Reply

  • @Letgo (Comment 2) : Who would coach the forwards?

  • Comment 4, posted at 15.10.15 12:29:09 by SheldonK Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 1) : Problem is… we had the team 3 seasons ago. Instead of getting to tweak the Plum game we chucked it out with Jake White style. It did not work so we tried to go for Gold…. Now 3 years later, we dont have the team anymore. And nothing to show for it. We as fans expected a super trophy around the corner. Now it doesnt even look like we can get a CC playoff game…

  • Comment 5, posted at 15.10.15 12:30:50 by ebenp Reply

  • The meal lacks salt…a key ingredient required to take a meal from unpalatable to delicious.

    So in essence, I agree – firing any more personnel wouldn’t serve any purpose in moving us forward….but appointing a proper head coach (and thereby relegating (should probably read “promoting”) Gary Gold to DoR duties.

    I’m hopeful that Robert du Preez will be the salt this dish so desperately needs.

  • Comment 6, posted at 15.10.15 12:40:16 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @ebenp (Comment 5) : Yeh the small tweak to the team and gameplan Plum has ended up being a major overhaul and now we have to start again. Kinda like someone saying let a little water out the dam and they go and break down the dam wall

  • Comment 7, posted at 15.10.15 12:41:56 by SheldonK Reply

  • When a coach and management team cannot provide any upward swing in a full season, they need to go. We’ve had coaches come in in the past and due to their ability and the players at their disposal, have managed to start something. I know for a fact that at least 95% of Sharks fans are not the ‘instant fame’ type of fans but show improvement ffs or gtfo. It’s simple.

  • Comment 8, posted at 15.10.15 12:42:53 by Mephisto_Shark Reply

  • @Mephisto_Shark (Comment 8) : The Sharks started the year with a loss at home to the Cheetahs and ended the year with a draw away at the Cheetahs…so thats improvement 🙂

  • Comment 9, posted at 15.10.15 12:45:11 by SheldonK Reply

  • @ebenp (Comment 5) : Plum got us as far as he could take us, it was the right decision to move on. Granted, it’s been going quite bad this year, but that’s growth for you. They couldn’t predict the future. A chance was taken and it didn’t work. Let’s hope they are putting in the long hours to get the problems sorted.

  • Comment 10, posted at 15.10.15 12:53:34 by Dragnipur Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • eish, that’s a legal reason to be an alcoholic more than anything 😆

  • Comment 11, posted at 15.10.15 12:53:59 by Mephisto_Shark Reply

  • I think the fact that blame cannot be apportioned to only one or two lone figures will be a MAJOR sticking point for a lot of readers of this piece.

  • Comment 12, posted at 15.10.15 13:00:27 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 12) : well, I guess all I can really do is to try lay out my thinking and then let people make up their own minds.

    Did Gary Gold have a squad good enough to win Currie Cup this year? I’d say clearly not. Was that his fault? mostly no – in fact, it looked to me as though a lot of rather panicky procurement had to be done on the very eve of the competition in order to even have a full complement of players.

    Should this squad have performed better than they did, though and at the very least made the knock-outs comfortably? Definitely. Can you blame all of that on the head coach? Or even on the coaching team? I don’t think you can – surely the players have the share the accountability.

  • Comment 13, posted at 15.10.15 13:20:52 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @SheldonK (Comment 4) : Same person coaching them now. …no one….just kidding

  • Comment 14, posted at 15.10.15 13:54:17 by coolfusion Reply

  • Well judging by how completely we gave up in the last 15 minutes against the cheetahs I would say no amount of coaching can teach you the things you need to learn for yourself and make part of your character as a player or a team.

  • Comment 15, posted at 15.10.15 13:57:38 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 14) : Well this No One chap better get his friend Some One to bladdy well help him out then…

  • Comment 16, posted at 15.10.15 13:57:52 by SheldonK Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 15) : ouch.

    So what do we do about that, if what you say is true? Chuck every player and start again?

  • Comment 17, posted at 15.10.15 14:01:35 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 13) : Just to be clear I’m actually in agreement with your premise despite having a serious doubts about Gary. Pastorshark’s post a week or so ago brought some much needed perspective. To summarise my feelings on the matter I’m very much on the fence about what firing anyone right now would achieve in the longer term. And seeing that my opinion does not influence Sharks decision making at all, I’m very comfortable on said fence.

    Having said that, I think some of our readers (myself included for a while) suffer from fairytale syndrome and that’s the point I was getting at. The idea that some hero could replace the imposter king and his fool and everyone would live happily ever after seems a over-simplification of the myriad of challenges faced by the union.

  • Comment 18, posted at 15.10.15 14:01:39 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 18) : yeah, I know.

  • Comment 19, posted at 15.10.15 14:02:31 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @vanmartin (Comment 18) : exactly right. I found myself believing the fairytale for a bit, but I’ve come to my sense since.

  • Comment 20, posted at 15.10.15 14:03:11 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 20) : Same here, I’ve just edited my post to include that.

  • Comment 21, posted at 15.10.15 14:08:09 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @robdylan (Comment 17) : Well is rugby supporters always refer to a player having class which is probably a blanket term for consistent performance, grace under fire and never say die temperament. Just how the heck you go about building class into a player I don’t know else we would have 10 Pat Lambie’s ready for duty every year. I submit Joe Pietersen vs Ettienne Oosthuizen in the final 15 minutes. All I can say is that men like Kitch Christie and Jake White knew how to find it and build it… a rare talent.

  • Comment 22, posted at 15.10.15 15:12:48 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 22) : In short I don’t know I have had my fair share of correct predictions when looking at a guy, I had just as many failures too. Better find someone with a better strike rate to help us sniff out the truffles from the turds…I suppose a honest to goodness talent manager. ..then get ready for some tough decisions. I do think there is a lot of class acts either in the making or already there….but there are also those who detract and at such a vulnerable stage in rebuild it’s better to try weed them out. Just an example…why have we not started grooming another lock besides Oosie? Give him just as much chance? The risk seems minimal.

  • Comment 23, posted at 15.10.15 15:18:53 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 22) : Now there’s a nature versus nurture argument if I ever saw one. Can class be coached? Damn interesting question!

  • Comment 24, posted at 15.10.15 15:30:02 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • If that fails I suggest we make Matfield an offer. We can play him in the last 20 minutes just as Oosthuizen starts to forget why he is on the field and what to do about the brown leather projectile coming his way….

  • Comment 25, posted at 15.10.15 15:35:52 by coolfusion Reply

  • @vanmartin (Comment 24) : Your question is a rhetorical one,if you can teach creativity it is not creative,it is learnt behaviour.
    You can’t coach class either,and at this level a coaches major function is to teach 15 quality individuals to act as one team.To think for each other before themselves,and to understand that any form of collective play is preferable to individual play.
    The teams that learn that and practice that and implement that are the ones that win,the teams that don’t don’t make the playoffs.
    For years now the individuals at the Sharks have been growing stronger than the team.We have always had strong individuals but guys like Jouba andMark Andrews were team men first and Gary Teichman was a strong enough captain to keep it that way.
    Plum understood this principle,but he was not strong enough to control the strong individuals in the team who were working against the team. Keegan was a feeble captain.
    White tried to control it but he did not have the management backing he needed to make it work and he lost out.
    Gold never had clue to make matters worse he ended with no captain,no team and band of undisciplined individuals.
    We need to take this disgraceful situation we are in and make the most of it,hire a coach with balls and give him carte blanche to build a team.
    Motto going forward should be no player is bigger than the team.
    Alex Ferguson when he coached United had one condition his contract-that he got paid more than anyone else on the payroll,that way he ensured everyone knew he was top dog

  • Comment 26, posted at 15.10.15 16:09:40 by The hound Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    The hound
  • @The hound (Comment 26) : I think I agree with your first statement. Creativity is unlocked, not taught in my opinion. Would you agree with that?

    Perhaps it’s the same thing with class? By the way, I doubt we have a common definition of class to start with. How would you define it?

    (Apologies for all the questions by the way, just find it an interesting topic)

  • Comment 27, posted at 15.10.15 16:25:49 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 27) : How would you define savant behaviour then,its certainly creative,but definitely not unlocked.Creative for me is instinctive behaviour.
    Good rugby example of that is to watch no9’s,the best don’t think they react,the kak ones think first and are caught in mid thought.
    Watching an old out of touch Fourie du Preez is still a lesson in class.

  • Comment 28, posted at 15.10.15 16:34:35 by The hound Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    The hound
  • @The hound (Comment 28) : we won’t see his like again.

    Are any of the current 9s anywhere near him? I don’t think so. Even Classy Classens has soft moments.

  • Comment 29, posted at 15.10.15 16:49:56 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @The hound (Comment 28) : I don’t think savant syndrome is a useful metaphor here. Creativity can certainly form a part of savant syndrome but that does not imply that all creatives are savants. So in answer to your question, savant syndrome cannot be unlocked (that I know of anyway) but I still believe creativity can.

    So let’s take Fourie du Preez as example. Would he have become one of the greats without the help of coach identifying and nurturing that class?

  • Comment 30, posted at 15.10.15 17:05:55 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 30) : Yes ,class is achieved by those players who blindly trust their instincts.
    Watch Milner Skude sidestep ,there is absolutely no anticipation in it,then watch Schalk Brits attempt the same thing,which one has the class?
    You can literally see Brits thinking jink left,jink right,left aw fuck I ran into him.

  • Comment 31, posted at 15.10.15 17:30:50 by The hound Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    The hound
  • All well and good… but… Gary Gold is simply not up to the job… we need to accept this too… part of the solution (note: nobody is saying it is THE solution) is to get rid of him. And the sooner the better…

  • Comment 32, posted at 15.10.15 18:15:37 by Gold_Must_Go Reply

    Gold's Member
  • @vanmartin (Comment 30) : Good point. You can’t expect to just be handed 15 quality men and take it from there you will have to find some discover some in the group you have and sometimes you have to grow some who have a spark but not yet enough substance. It takes a special coach and maybe some assistants and talent managers to get you there. Very important that we have someone with this skillset scouting for us.

  • Comment 33, posted at 15.10.15 18:19:25 by coolfusion Reply

  • @Warren Harvey (Comment 3) : well said

  • Comment 34, posted at 15.10.15 19:17:20 by revolverocelot Reply

  • Love the discussion. Great comments. Just want to add that out of all the players that play, maybe less than 10% have that God given talent of a Fourie or a Bobby. The rest of the 90% rely on a coach that has a vision, gets the players to buy into that vision and knows how to mould that team to be able to achieve that vision. Out of all coaches there’s probably 20% that get it right. Just watching teams like Ireland, Wales, Argentina, Australia and Japan is just becomes so clear how clueless Gold is when it comes to coaching. Exclude Australia from that list and you then realize that these teams are where they are now because of their coaches technical and leadership abilities. The fundamentals are not in place and he doesn’t seem to know what to do. He strikes me as someone that does not know that for C to happen A and B need to be in place. Gold and Everitt are not the answers.

  • Comment 35, posted at 15.10.15 22:15:45 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • I agree that finding one or two scapegoats wont necessarily solve the problem the Sharks find themselves, however not making any bold decisions to make changes and expecting different results wont work either.

    A change was made to get rid of the management, coach and resultant player loss, ti improve – it had the opposite effect, we went into meltdown.

    Someone said earlier that Plum had taken us as far as he could, but to be honest would we rather not be up there were we were than down here were we find ourselves now.

    I think the lesson is, lets be careful about what changes we make, and for what reasons. Let it not be again about personalities, but about building a structure that works going forward.

  • Comment 36, posted at 16.10.15 08:23:31 by stevovo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @stevovo (Comment 36) : The big problems with Plums leaving is that it precipitated a massive loss of knowledge from all structures to do with the Sharks, from players, to admin, to coaches, the academy etc. Yep the baby was well and truly thrown out with the bath water.

  • Comment 37, posted at 16.10.15 09:21:37 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 37) : Agreed

  • Comment 38, posted at 16.10.15 10:31:20 by stevovo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld

Add Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.