More rugby, more mistakes

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 12 Apr 2016 at 10:05
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Having consulted a wide variety of people over the last few days (as I typically do after a Sharks match), I’ll admit to being a very frustrated and also rather confused fan.

Frustrated? Well yes, of course I’m frustrated. Not so much because I absolutely expected and demanded a win against the Lions, but frustrated because I don’t feel the Sharks did as well as they could have done in that match. The confused part stems from not knowing why the Sharks played the way they did – what prompted them to move away from a formula that had thus far proved mostly successful for them.

On Saturday, we saw the Sharks play some very silly rugby indeed. Fans, of course, clamour for a helter-skelter ball-in-hand at all costs approach because they think that’s what the Lions do…. I wonder how it felt for those fans to see the Lions build their victory on exactly those aspects which have been pilloried when applied by Gold’s team: concentration on territory, pressure defence and not playing “too much rugby”, particularly in the wrong parts of the field.

The Sharks have been accused of “kicking too much”, but that game plan, even when poorly executed, bloody nearly resulted in a win over the Crusaders. Elton Jantjies delivered a master-class in how to use the boot to control a game on Saturday, while poor confused Joe Pietersen seemed to believe that his only measure of success was just how many impossible situations he tried to run himself out of.

Stats don’t paint the full picture, of course, but the stats will show that the Sharks spent far more of the game attacking than they usually do and had far more possession. Alas, for a team at this stage in their development, that attempt to play “more rugby” backfired, as the individual errors committed on the day played directly into the Lions’ hands.

So what now? That’s my question. What should the Sharks do, or attempt to do, going forward? Do they go back to what worked for them, continue to build on defence and seek to improve their execution of the territory-based game? Or attempt to play more, even if they don’t always do so from the best field positions? Accept that the players are still learning and that there’s a skill deficit to be made up. Accept, in short, that we’re gong to lose more games and hope that the team manages to continue to develop and improve despite the results?

I know what I want them to do, unpopular though it may seem. Sharks, it wasn’t broken – in fact, it was looking more and more fixed with each outing, until, that is, we tried to do something different on Saturday.


  • Damned if you do, damned if you don’t…..

  • Comment 1, posted at 12.04.16 10:18:05 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Maybe the past saturday’s starting 15 was better suited to defensive pressure rugby?if the approach is attack-minded,then 2-3 changes in starting 15?

  • Comment 2, posted at 12.04.16 10:22:02 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • There’s a huge difference between a territorial game plan and a kicking game plan, and that, I believ, is where many fans get lost. Territorial is 2007 Springboks, kicking is 2015 Springboks.

  • Comment 3, posted at 12.04.16 10:23:46 by Die Kriek Reply

  • Great points Rob! Sharks need to kick and apply pressure-we actually have great kick chasers. And when we get possession in opposition half lets play that ball in hand run at all costs rugby. We dont need a 7s approach

  • Comment 4, posted at 12.04.16 10:34:35 by SheldonK Reply

  • Remember the old rugby saying, you have to earn the right to go wide. People try to over complicate rugby, but it is actually a simple game. Use the boot to get you in the right areas, then let the forwards suck in the defenders, after that unleash the speedsters and let them score. And on defense tackle every thing that moves. Also, we had a failry good gameplan, and instead of tweaking it slowly and bit by bit, the Sharks tried overhauling it all in one game.

  • Comment 5, posted at 12.04.16 10:36:29 by KingRiaan Reply

  • Sharks should have scored from within the first few minutes but perhaps 3 wrong options were taken on attack.

  • Comment 6, posted at 12.04.16 10:44:44 by 50shadesofshark Reply

  • I think that what is evident here is just how much this team needs Pat Lambie,for his innate,intuitive ability to make spur of the moment decisions under pressure.

  • Comment 7, posted at 12.04.16 10:50:22 by The hound Reply
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  • @KingRiaan (Comment 5) : Great post!! Best ive seen in ages

  • Comment 8, posted at 12.04.16 10:51:36 by SheldonK Reply

  • I was really impressed with how the Lions played. Sure, I hate to lose. And I’m not sure about all the calls that went against us, but sometimes you just have to accept that your team were beaten by a better team.

  • Comment 9, posted at 12.04.16 10:52:20 by Letgo Reply
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  • I wasn’t a huge fan of the kick / defense game plan but it was working and I accepted that was the base you build an attacking game on. Saturday showed why we are playing this way and I for one would rather see a Sharks team grind out an ugly win knowing that we are building to something, rather than see us throw the ball around, ran everything and end of on the wrong end of a thrashing.

    Defense and territory based mindsets might not be popular but thinking back to Robs cake baking article last year if you don’t mix the ingredients in at the right time your cake will flop.

    We’re on tour now, time to tighten up, play smart, bank some points. In years to come we will judge this season on where we ended the tournament and not with flashy or boring rugby. Remember 2012, we were great right, got all the way to the final…. Except for the most part we were pretty crap and had to work tooth and nail to get to the final. Still remember we were great, with some top end running rugby. Granted season started poorly and if I’m not mistaken in round 2 at half time went into the shed 0-0 to the bulls and lost the game anyway. Expect there wasn’t any great running rugby to be seen there. The point being win first, build a team that wins, then get the attack firing. We have the ingredients now to mix them at the right time.

  • Comment 10, posted at 12.04.16 10:53:14 by Hulk Reply

  • @The hound (Comment 7) : mate, you just bliksemmed the head right off the damn nail.

    I suspect that, as we go, Gold is realising more and more that he doesn’t have a flyhalf general capable of dictating the game. Pietersen, unfortunately, is looking more and more like a decent fullback being asked to do a job at 10…. Perhaps this last week was an attempt to see if Joe fitted more naturally into a different style of play and if anything, he was considerably worse.

    So what do we do? My feeling is we need to start with Garth April, but again, I have my doubts as to whether he can play the way we need him to. That said, I would rather see a 24 -year-old making mistakes and learning than a 32 year old doing the same thing.

  • Comment 11, posted at 12.04.16 10:53:15 by robdylan Reply
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  • @KingRiaan (Comment 5) : The Lions defense was excellent. At some point we had to realise that we needed to play smart to make meters.

  • Comment 12, posted at 12.04.16 10:53:56 by Letgo Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 11) : Agree, I’d like to see April start.

  • Comment 13, posted at 12.04.16 10:54:51 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 9) : we were beaten by a better team, but I think we could have made the game a lot more even had we approached it differently.

  • Comment 14, posted at 12.04.16 10:57:11 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 11) : Agreed, Joe has always looked like a retread fullback but he’s done a good holding job, much like Steyn did for White. Nothing flashy, just solid, was never going to set the world alight. Should we revert back to the plan that beat the Jaguars, Stormers and almost the Crusaders then Joe is the choice, anything else April.

  • Comment 15, posted at 12.04.16 10:58:39 by Hulk Reply

  • @Letgo (Comment 12) : Yeah we did need to play smarter, at on stage it was so damn easy to see which sharks player is going to get the pass. That is where you need someone to then put through the grubber or something, and one thing that is pissing me off more and more is the use of the skip pass. Sending the ball quick through the hands is so much more effective than one slow lobbing ball over the head of two players

  • Comment 16, posted at 12.04.16 10:58:53 by KingRiaan Reply

  • We’re going in circles here.

    When we kick possession away, we lose by a small margin, when we try and play ball in hand – we panic when a minor mistake occurs, and we lose by a bigger margin.

    We only really posed any form of threat with ball in hand when April came on….Joe seemed to have lost his nerve.

    Either way, coaching staff need to decide how they want to play, ensure the players are equipped to play that style (or skills are being developed), and stick to their guns.

  • Comment 17, posted at 12.04.16 10:59:28 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • Handling and discipline reminded me of 2015

  • Comment 18, posted at 12.04.16 11:01:42 by JarsonX Reply
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  • Allister Coetzee new Springbok coach. Dont quite know how i feel about it

  • Comment 19, posted at 12.04.16 11:08:14 by Fox Reply

  • @Fox (Comment 19) : I can tell you what I don’t feel: surprised 😉

  • Comment 20, posted at 12.04.16 11:10:45 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @Fox (Comment 19) : One step forward, two steps back… 🙁

  • Comment 21, posted at 12.04.16 11:11:01 by KingRiaan Reply

  • Whatever it was, the worrying part to me was the the Lions themselves were pretty crap…..

  • Comment 22, posted at 12.04.16 11:15:51 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • Rob, the issue is not so much about kicking too much, but kicking away good possession cost us badly against the Lions.

  • Comment 23, posted at 12.04.16 11:32:58 by Uli Boelie Reply
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    Uli Boelie
  • @Uli Boelie (Comment 23) : you mean against the Crusaders?

  • Comment 24, posted at 12.04.16 11:51:31 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 11) : no use crying over spilled milk but I really think the coaches missed a trick not to start April against the Kings. That was the best game for him to start.

  • Comment 25, posted at 12.04.16 11:59:26 by JD Reply
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  • @The hound (Comment 7) : Not to be nitpicky or anything, but any idiot can make spur-of-the-moment decisions under pressure. What makes Pat special is that he makes *the correct* spur-of-the-moment decisions under pressure…. :mrgreen:

  • Comment 26, posted at 12.04.16 12:11:42 by Culling Song Reply
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    Culling Song
  • Nice article, good points in the comments…
    It seems to me that when it comes to the Sharks much of what we do is determined by outside factors:
    – what press and people say majorly impacts how we try to play.
    – fear of what people say and fear of losing (games and popularity) seems to be driving and constantly redefining what we are trying to achieve and how.
    I think our management needs to sit down and decide exactly what they want to do and how they want to achieve it…and then stick to their guns with step wise adjustments and improvements. Of course, for that to happen they also need people to show a bit of patience and good old fashioned support. Rob, your article from the other day about us getting what we deserve still rings very true…

  • Comment 27, posted at 12.04.16 12:13:13 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 24) : Rob, I do not think we must look at the Crusader game for answers on how to play. The truth is, we were totally outplayed by the Crusaders and luck kept us in the game more than anything else – they missed 9 odd points at goal and we scored two fortuitous tries while the Crusaders were on a dangerous looking attack.

    J Pietersen is like many other SA Flyhalves. They just do not seem able to get the back line away. They stand too deep, then when standing flat, they try take it on themselves. Funnily enough, JL Du Plessis looked incredible this weekend, but again, they were playing a side who have not looked like winning a game.

    The Sharks do not seem to have a plan. We run into players, trying to bash and crash and when that does not work, Joe lines up deep and kicks directly down the back three throats. If we do not run over the opposition, there seems to be a lack of understanding on what to do next, so just kick deep and hope. Why not put up a few bombs onto the wings, get our wings contesting our kicks, we just seem to kick as long as possible, what is the though process in that.

    yes the kiwis kick, but they seem to kick to a plan. They go high often to get their wings contesting in the air and when they do kick long, it is because someone is out of position in the back three and they make oddless of meters while chasing down those same kicks – a kick is only ever as good as the chase!!!

    I am worried now going forward, if Coenie gets buggered by a year old 22 year old, then we are in serious trouble. Not sure where to from here.

  • Comment 28, posted at 12.04.16 12:13:30 by Vonno13 Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 24) : Not sure why but we both always seem to watch different games.

  • Comment 29, posted at 12.04.16 14:03:25 by Uli Boelie Reply
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    Uli Boelie
  • The problem is the Sharks never had the opportunity to play the kick and defend game. Couple of scrum penalties allowed the Lions attacking ball in our half (and they converted most of these), 10-0 down and the guys had to start chasing the game. So the Sharks were playing catch up rugby for most of the match – which means you start having to run from 60-70 m out.

    The scrum issues needs to be sorted pronto regardless of what game they want to play. Scrums were poor against the Crusaders and not much better against the Lions. Otherwise teams with stronger scrums can made handling errors at will, as they are very likely to get the ball back (penalty, scrummy under pressure coughing up the ball, etc) at the ensuing scrum.

  • Comment 30, posted at 12.04.16 14:24:33 by Bokhoring Reply
  • I think the Lions have shown that attractive rugby can be winning rugby, but its not an easy road to get there.

    Are we willing to bite the bullet and or will we retreat into a lager and play our conservative game to minimize the losses.

    Personally I would like us to make a commitment to moving towards a more attractive (attack minded, keep the ball in hand, look for opportunities to offload, etc) kind of game plan knowing that in the long run this would pay off (both in terms of your supporters and results) – BUT acknowledging that this wont happen overnight, it will be a process.

  • Comment 31, posted at 12.04.16 17:00:23 by stevovo Reply
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