Experience vital for Sharks – and their opponents

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 23 Feb 2017 at 17:24
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In a competition that is seeing increasing numbers of young players making their mark, experience is becoming a rare commodity indeed, particularly for South African teams. As we look to tomorrow morning’s Super Rugby opener against the Reds in Brisbane, it’s that specific injection of experience in Super Rugby that makes the opponents significantly more dangerous in 2017 than they have been for a number of years.

Simply put, a Reds team boasting lock Rob Simmons as its only centurion would not have struck much fear into anyone’s hearts in this competition. Bring in veterans George Smith (142), Quade Cooper (105), Scott Higginbotham (109) and Stephen Moore (165) and you add an aggregate of almost 500 caps to the side. That is, simply put, about 33 man-years’ of vital competition experience, adding mettle and backbone to a side otherwise brimming with young, but inexperienced, talent. I can guarantee you one thing – that the Sharks will not be able, in tomorrow’s game, to create even a single game situation that at least one of these veterans has not seen and dealt with before. That’s a pretty daunting thought.

This, ultimately, is where the danger lies and it’s why the Sharks are themselves going to have to lean heavily on the experienced men in their own lineup, even though they may not boast quite as many. One feels that – while the Sharks are trying hard to become a star team, rather than a team of stars – they are going to need big performances from their big names in Brisbane, with their most experienced combination, that of halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie, clearly the most crucial of all. With a young centre pair and fullback, it will additionally fall to Lwazi Mvovo, a guy due a very big game in his 100th appearance, to make the good decisions and inspire calm amongst the youngsters around him.

The old adage tells us, though, that it’s the forwards who really win the game and the Sharks here really need to use their experienced men – props Beast Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen and Lourens Adriaanse as well as hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle later on – to build a set piece platform from which they can launch their game. One feels that the Sharks should probably have the physical edge in those tight exchanges, but it’s going to take nothing less than a massive effort from those senior “hardebaard” players to ensure that dominance materialises.

A fascinating loose trio encounter awaits, with Philip van der Walt (earning his 60th career cap) leading the relatively inexperienced Tera Mtembu and Jean-Luc du Preez against the aforementioned veterans, Smith and Higginbotham. For the Sharks to win this particular contest (and, perhaps, the match as a whole) they will need to overturn the experience deficit in the back row and show that in some cases, all the experience in the world counts for nothing if your opponents are younger, quicker and stronger. This, ultimately, is where my hope lies, but the Sharks loose trio will need to be wide awake to not only counter Smith’s poaching threat at the breakdown, but also help to nullify a multitude of other threats elsewhere, not least the hulking figure of Samu Kerevi in midfield.

Rob du Preez wants the Sharks to execute their basics really well in this game and will be hoping that his seniors can set the tone in this regard. In a team lacking in experience relative to previous year – and coming up against one that has added massively to their own cap tally – the Sharks cannot win unless those senior players step up and deliver flawless performances. Come on, Sharks – we know you can do this!


  • Go Sharks!!!

  • Comment 1, posted at 23.02.17 17:34:30 by JD Reply
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  • I think you meant Jean-Luc du Preez.

  • Comment 2, posted at 23.02.17 17:39:38 by jakkalas Reply

  • @jakkalas (Comment 2) : that’s what I said

  • Comment 3, posted at 23.02.17 18:02:45 by robdylan Reply
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  • @jakkalas (Comment 2) : love it when I spend so much time writing an article and the only feedback I get is to point out a dumb typo. Keep up the good work!

  • Comment 4, posted at 23.02.17 19:22:15 by robdylan Reply
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  • In my opinion, there is just as much pressure on the Reds experienced players to produce on the day. An off performance by any of them will be exploited by the Sharks. I feel that the Sharks have enough experienced players to counter the Reds you mention above, but I also strongly believe the Sharks youngsters are bigger, faster, stronger, and more talented than their Reds youngster counterparts. Yes the Reds have home field advantage, but I see the experience factor even, and the Sharks younger talent better than the Reds. So looks like a close game but I give the edge to the Sharks. I can not imagine that a 37 year old Smith will be anywhere near the player he was in his 20s and early 30s, and he has always been lacking in the size department.

  • Comment 5, posted at 23.02.17 19:23:05 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 4) : Yo….I gave you some proper feedback! 😉 :mrgreen: 😛

  • Comment 6, posted at 23.02.17 19:24:08 by Dancing Bear Reply
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    Dancing Bear
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 5) : hang on, is he really 37?

  • Comment 7, posted at 23.02.17 19:24:19 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 6) : you are a valued contributor, mate! Thank you 🙂

  • Comment 8, posted at 23.02.17 19:25:16 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : Actually 36, 37 in July.

  • Comment 9, posted at 23.02.17 19:27:56 by Dancing Bear Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 9) : ok. 37 feels like a real watershed age (says this guy who is turning 40 in October)

  • Comment 10, posted at 23.02.17 19:35:44 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 10) : Bloody Spring Chickens :mrgreen: 😆

  • Comment 11, posted at 23.02.17 19:50:11 by sharks_lover Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 10) : As we say in America…..double nickel for me in June (55). 😉

  • Comment 12, posted at 23.02.17 20:18:08 by Dancing Bear Reply
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    Dancing Bear
  • @robdylan (Comment 4) : well it’s what happens when you set the standards so high boss!!!

  • Comment 13, posted at 23.02.17 20:29:39 by JD Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 5) : don’t know a lot of this Reds team but I do think the Sharks youngsters are exciting! Let’s hope they can do the same as Rieko Ioane did for the Blues!

  • Comment 14, posted at 23.02.17 20:36:38 by JD Reply
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  • @JD (Comment 13) : you are too kind

  • Comment 15, posted at 23.02.17 20:52:10 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 15) : Hang on, great read mr Boss man, really well typed and executed 🙂 i really hope that we see the exuberant youth coming through and gel from the 1st minute and this creating an unheard of fire and spark in the Sharks like we have never seen, and that it will show that experience is not always the only good thing, I could feel their muscle tissues collapse under my force. It’s ludicrous these mortals even attempt to enter Sharks realm

  • Comment 16, posted at 23.02.17 21:33:29 by Henkb Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 15) : pleasure boss!

  • Comment 17, posted at 23.02.17 21:44:41 by JD Reply
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  • As much as this article looks at experience, I feel that franco marais will be key to a sharks win. Neither young or experienced, his position as the 4th loose forward, scrummager and lineout thrower will be key. Up against stephen moore a poor game and the sharks tight 5 will be vunerable and will give the hometeam the shift they need.

  • Comment 18, posted at 23.02.17 22:13:12 by byron Reply

  • This reds teams is going to be a very different beast then last year, most importantly for them and their fans is that they got rid of Richard graham and bought in a new coach who won the NRC with Brisbane city, as well some experiences players. If I were the sharks I would try targeting the 10/12 channel between cooper and paia’ aua as they look weaker defensively. As well as kicking on their Fijian wingers

  • Comment 19, posted at 23.02.17 22:26:16 by RuckingFun Reply

  • Nice article with some nice comments. For me key areas will be:
    1. Our defense, especially in the midfield…
    2. Set pieces, especially the front row…
    3. Improving our handling from the last few seasons…
    And then obviously the battle ground of 6,7,8 and 9,10…
    Excited to see what we dish up…

  • Comment 20, posted at 23.02.17 22:44:42 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @byron (Comment 18) : I think you are spot on. Big call from Rob to pick Frank over Chili, in my book. I like Frank a lot – his basics are great and he’s a hard worker in the right loose but he really needs to take that step up this year and start really dominating opponents.

  • Comment 21, posted at 23.02.17 22:55:55 by robdylan Reply
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  • Good luck Sharks!

    I’m interested to see how the Sharks “new” game plan plays out and to see guys like Am and Ward step up.

    Key to me is the breakdowns. If the Sharks can recycle possession quickly and speed up the game they can counter the threat Smith poses and use their backline to open up the game. I don’t think the Sharks want to get involved in a forwards tussle

    Quade Cooper has seldom impressed me without Genia as his halfback partner. If the Sharks can prevent him and Frisby from settling down they have a chance

  • Comment 22, posted at 24.02.17 07:05:47 by Baylion Reply

  • Now that is an article to get one excited about a game. Damn good read.

  • Comment 23, posted at 24.02.17 07:42:09 by Hulk Reply

  • Time for talking is over its almost cruuuuunch time

  • Comment 24, posted at 24.02.17 08:00:50 by The hound Reply
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  • This game is going to be very interesting…can the Reds big recruitment drive show rewards early on and can they improve from their pretty horrid 2016. Can the Sharks fairly young side show improvement under RDP and eliminate the silly errors that cost us in the CC.

  • Comment 25, posted at 24.02.17 08:56:00 by SheldonK Reply


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