Let’s start at the very beginning…

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 15 Mar 2016 at 08:23
Tagged with : , , ,

“… a very good place to start,” trills a sprightly Julie Andrews in her role as governess Maria in the classic family move “The Sound of Music”.

“When you read,” she goes on, “you begin with A,B,C – when you sing, you begin with do, re, mi”. Surprisingly enough, this post isn’t really about singing (although we do have some lovely singing voices in the current Sharks squad, with Giant Mtayanda’s silky soulful gospel tones somewhat contrasting with Marcell Coetzee’s more rock’n’-roll style). This is really about how the Sharks have gone back to school to learn their ABC’s after last season’s poor run and how this approach seems to be paying off so far.

Far from the finished package, we’ll concede, but the first four letters alone hold many of the secrets to the improvements we’ve seen to date.

“A” is for “attitude” and it’s something that you really can’t coach. A player brings his attitude with him to training and it affects the way he does everything throughout the week. Environmental factors or relationships within the squad can affect attitude, but ultimately each individual is responsible for how his own attitude affects his ability to execute effectively on game day. In the past, there hasn’t always been a very good attitude on display from the Sharks players, either individually or as a team and another, less savoury “A”, namely “arrogance”, has been a more common bedfellow.

“B” is for “basics” and it really doesn’t get more simple than that. Well-executed set pieces, a strong emphasis on making your tackles, on clearing your lines, on doing the “bread and butter” things well: those are all going to ensure you win more games than you lose. Last year’s Sharks skipped this “B” and tried to go all the way to “entertainment”, “excitement”, “try scoring” and other lofty pursuits that are much further down the alphabet and are doomed to fail unless built on a solid base. Any recovery or rebuilding process simply has to start here, with doing the simple things right 100% of the time.

“C” could stand for a lot of things – and I’m going to specifically avoid using the word “character”, which seems unpopular to some around here. Rather, let’s look at a few other good “C” words, like “composure”, “confidence” and “camaraderie”, all of which are important to a team’s success. The elder statesmen in the team – the likes of Beast, Marcell, Joe, Odwa and Willie – are really setting the tone in the way they remain composed in the face of adversity and are helping the other along in the process. As the team continues to perform, confidence in their own abilities (and each others’) grows, as does that that sense of camaraderie or brotherhood within the group. This last “C” is important because at times over the last few years, it’s felt at times as though the Sharks weren’t really all part of the same team. That definitely seems to have changed in 2016.

“D” is for two really key aspects, ones that perhaps would warrant a spot even higher up the alphabet. “Defence” speaks for itself, now doesn’t it? You can’t win if you’re not defending and leaking tries; we saw this last year. While a strong “D” may not always be sexy, it is always going to be effective and when you’re making dominant tackles, you’re creating uncertainty in your opponents’ minds as well as creating the possibility of turnover possession, which is the best ball with which to attack and score tries. Last week’s famous victory at Newlands was really built on nothing other than defence and what a sweet victory it was! “D” also stands for “discipline”, a factor that has been shocking for the Sharks in years gone by but is improving steadily every week. Most pleasing, those petulant acts of bad sportsmanship that marred the 2015 campaign appear to be a thing of the past and with zero cards of any colour shown to any Sharks player so far, we’re hoping this trend may continue. Maintaining a high standard of personal discipline shows a genuine desire to put the team’s needs ahead of your own and each and every player wearing the black and white this year seems to have finally understood that message.

So what next? “E” for “excitement”? Are we there yet? It’s obviously built on the letters that come before. Let’s see what the Sharks bring to Loftus on Friday, but if their “ABC’s” include “apathy”, “bracado” or worst of all “complacency”, then the only the dreaded “D” for “defeat” will be a certain consequence.


  • Out of all of these, I think B needs the most work, and specifically handling. Two games in a row with a huge amount of handling errors. Luckily our dominant scrum saved us.

    Other than that, this is surely a much better start then anyone of us would have predicted, anything from now are just more cherries on top.

  • Comment 1, posted at 15.03.16 08:29:49 by Seth101 Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter Author
  • I’m so happy Smit stuck with Gary despite the hoards baying for his immediate dismissal. Consider where we would be right now if the focus was on getting a replacement for him instead of finding the right support coaching staff and key players.

  • Comment 2, posted at 15.03.16 08:53:16 by gregkaos Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Nice one Rob!! Think you mentioned a couple of points that’s worth remembering!!

  • Comment 3, posted at 15.03.16 08:53:22 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
  • The dreaded ‘character’ word is becoming more endearing by the day. I see it more as a inside joke than a irritation but maybe that’s just me.

    By the way, B is for Beast Mode but I’ll allow the oversight this one time.

  • Comment 4, posted at 15.03.16 09:00:17 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 4) : +1 for beast mode. 🙂

  • Comment 5, posted at 15.03.16 09:03:34 by gregkaos Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Can’t wait for the F to Z article. There’s a challenge, words for Q, X, Y, Z. :mrgreen:

    On a serious note, quality article.

  • Comment 6, posted at 15.03.16 09:06:10 by Hulk Reply

  • Nice practical article Rob…beautifully simplistic way in which rugby needs to be understood by rugby players of all ages.

  • Comment 7, posted at 15.03.16 09:29:07 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @Hulk (Comment 6) : Q is for quality, you said it yourself 🙂

  • Comment 8, posted at 15.03.16 09:43:30 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @gregkaos (Comment 2) : I think the biggest thing here is the fact that Gary was able to choose his own assistants this year. Something the other coaches was unable to do (JW, BV & Gold in his first year springs to mind).
    I do think you need to also keep in mind is that Gold has some seriously good assistant right now. Look I will give credit where its due. The Coaching Team is doing a great job at the moment. To say Gold is the perfect coach, well only time will tell. What I can say is that with the support team he currently sits with he is lightyears ahead of what he was last year.

    Credit to Gold for getting these guys in, and for these guys to support Gold and the Sharks the way they are.

  • Comment 9, posted at 15.03.16 09:55:01 by Uli Boelie Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
    Uli Boelie
  • @robdylan (Comment 8) : Very good 😆

  • Comment 10, posted at 15.03.16 10:00:14 by Hulk Reply

  • @Uli Boelie (Comment 9) : Just my opinion on this…for the first time in quite a while the Sharks now have a specific and good defensive coach, they also have a good backline attack coach. So whilst Gold was trying to pick up the Brendon Venter pieces last year and do it all he can now focus a large part of his day on the forwards, and he is a pretty good forwards coach. Just watching the way he warmed them up at the home game he is big on the old school basics of forward timing and unity and uncompromising hard graft in the tight. So to be honest not since Plum was as assistant coach have i seen a coaching team this well structured

  • Comment 11, posted at 15.03.16 10:17:31 by SheldonK Reply

  • @Uli Boelie (Comment 9) : @SheldonK (Comment 11) : I’m fine if Gold’s only role is assembling, managing and administrating a team of super-assistants. He can handle the media and troll them with ‘character’ soundbites while the assistants get on with the job. I’m not claiming this is the case at all but I’d be comfortable with such a setup. A good leader knows how to delegate after all 😀

  • Comment 12, posted at 15.03.16 10:22:20 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 12) : Pretty much what I’d expect from a director of rugby….no need to micro-manage your assistants (that’s a very JW/HM thing).

  • Comment 13, posted at 15.03.16 10:26:35 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • I think the real unsung hero here is the person responsible for recruitment.
    Willie,Claassens,Joe and Connie bought in the off season,have been immense to the successful start to this season.
    Would hate to think where we would be,if we had stuck with,SP,Mc Cloud,Fred and Matt Stevens.
    We never got a chance to see the real value of Botha,but we will.

  • Comment 14, posted at 15.03.16 10:26:44 by The hound Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    The hound
  • @vanmartin (Comment 12) : I think thats very possibly where the setup is heading…just need a good forwards assistant then. As for his media soundbites…if i got asked those same questions every week and was only allow to say certain things i think i too would just ramble the same stuff. Either that or use the PDivvy approach haha

  • Comment 15, posted at 15.03.16 10:29:19 by SheldonK Reply

  • @The hound (Comment 14) : Who is running the recruitment at the Sharks currently? Botes? or is he more to do with the juniours

  • Comment 16, posted at 15.03.16 10:31:38 by SheldonK Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 16) : I would presume that John Smit has a big hand in here.
    The other excellent signing we have yet to see is Chilliboy,I predict he will make a huge impact when we need him most.

  • Comment 17, posted at 15.03.16 10:39:55 by The hound Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    The hound
  • @SheldonK (Comment 15) : Just to clarify, I’m not complaining about the media soundbites, I’m actually sincerely hoping that he’s busy trolling them. Frankly don’t care what he tells SA Rugby Mag as long as he’s saying the right things to his coaches and players.

  • Comment 18, posted at 15.03.16 10:48:53 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @The hound (Comment 17) : I def think Smit is quite hands on in that department very true. I wont comment on Chilliboy…

  • Comment 19, posted at 15.03.16 10:54:04 by SheldonK Reply

  • @vanmartin (Comment 18) : We on the same page. I think some of the questions especially from tv analysts etc are quite pathetic. I bet he sometimes wishes he could take the piss out of them or say what he really thinks

  • Comment 20, posted at 15.03.16 10:55:29 by SheldonK Reply

  • “C” could stand for a lot of things – and I’m going to specifically avoid using the word “character”, which seems unpopular to some around here.

    Bwahahaha 🙂

    But seriously, the two differences between this and last year:

    1. The team is looking coached. Compare this to last year’s gaffe “we completely forgot to practice defence in the pre-season”. Credit to our new coaches.

    2. Team cohesion and “gees”. Keohane suggests the “senior players” last year had an issue accepting Gold’s authority, as Gold is not a forceful personality. The brothers getting on their bikes to France seems to have allowed our young team to flourish.

  • Comment 21, posted at 15.03.16 11:04:22 by Sharks_have_Character! Reply

    Gold's Member
  • @Sharks_have_Character! (Comment 21) : re: the dup brothers not accepting gold’s authority: dont know if this is so for myself.would have liked for rdp,sr and dup brothers to have had a discussion.perhaps that is what was needed?bissie and jannie both have lots of passion for the sharks.true,i would only have signed bissie,but who knows how jannie would’ve been doing as part of a rotation no3?same goes for frans steyn.but money to retain and get willie,coenie,,etc would always be the issue i suppose.

  • Comment 22, posted at 15.03.16 11:25:28 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @The hound (Comment 14) : I assume Smit is very much part of the recruitment process and he looks very passionate about the rugby and not just the business. I think this is key because at the end of the day the rugby is the business.

  • Comment 23, posted at 15.03.16 13:48:27 by Hulk Reply

  • @Hulk (Comment 23) : i would also assume the sharks fans are very much involved in the recruitment process,re: last year’s questionnaire 😀 perhaps that might have been the reason for keegan’s return?wonder how many supporters mentioned him?

  • Comment 24, posted at 15.03.16 14:24:07 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @The hound (Comment 14) : signings after 2015 sr season: 10/15 joe pietersen,9 claassens,15 willie,4/7 potgieter,5 botha,3 coenie,2 chilli,6 keegan,5 uanivi,12 johan deysel,14 mjekevu,10/15 april,1 schoeman,7/8 christiaan de bruin,3 engelbrecht,4/7 mcduling.4 mtyanda and 7/8 bothma for sr.

  • Comment 25, posted at 15.03.16 14:44:06 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @50shadesofshark (Comment 25) : think Giant and Bothma was signed before 2015 Super rugby as they already played in last years Super rugby for the Sharks?!

  • Comment 26, posted at 15.03.16 14:52:53 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
  • @JD (Comment 27) :mtyanda only signed for 2016 sr.still contracted to the pumas cc team.not sure about bothma?but both were signed only for 2015 sr.then re-signed for sr 2016 (though bothma might have a long-term contract?).

  • Comment 27, posted at 15.03.16 14:58:04 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @JD (Comment 27) : @50shadesofshark (Comment 28) : bothma signed a 2-year superrugby only deal with the sharks in play in the 2015 and 2016 that signing was done before the end of 2015 sr.mtyanda was signed on for 2015 sr season.then re-signed for 2016 sr season.remember still doubts pre-season about whether mtyanda would join the sharks for sr.

  • Comment 28, posted at 15.03.16 15:04:07 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • @50shadesofshark (Comment 28) : ja something like that. Hope Sharks can sign both full time once their Puma contract are done.

  • Comment 29, posted at 15.03.16 15:20:19 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
  • I see the biggest whining Stormer of them all, Ashfak Mohamed (who is known to bend the truth to suit his undisguised pro -Stormer agenda), is doing his best to influence Marius Jonker ahead of the game this Saturday.

    He concludes his latest article with these words: “So the last thing the Cape side need is having another controversial TMO or refereeing decision going against them.”

    Perhaps the funniest part of his emotional piece is this however: “Reinach played the ball on Kolisi’s foot, but Fraser referred the incident to Jonker, who said that the Stormers flank had kicked the ball out of Reinach’s hand, which therefore warranted a penalty try and yellow card.”

    Hahaha so Reinach saw Kolisi’s raised boot coming towards him and “placed” the ball against it mid air? Is he still disputing that Kolisi kicked the ball out of Reinach’s hand? At least he isn’t persisting with his blatant lie that Reinach placed the ball on to Kolisi’s grounded boot.

    How is this guy given a mouthpiece?

  • Comment 30, posted at 15.03.16 15:43:58 by Sharks_have_Character! Reply

    Gold's Member
  • @Sharks_have_Character! (Comment 30) : Sadly with newspapers and online publications, they know that controversy sells – who cares about the truth, as long as you get your quota of clicks.

  • Comment 31, posted at 15.03.16 15:59:25 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 31) : it’s a blatant attempt to influence Jonker and the referee this Saturday! Why else write a sensationalist piece about Jonker being the TMO again?

  • Comment 32, posted at 15.03.16 16:03:13 by Sharks_have_Character! Reply

    Gold's Member
  • @Sharks_have_Character! (Comment 32) : In this world, there is one motivating factor that drives most walks of life….and you merely need to follow the money.

    Most deplorable acts in this world somehow always ends up being influenced where somebody makes a bucket load of money.

  • Comment 33, posted at 15.03.16 18:44:20 by FireTheLooser Reply


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