Sharks losing their grip

2012-04-28 00:00

THEIR critics, growing in number with each passing defeat, have been having a field day this Super Rugby season as the Sharks have yo-yo’d their way through another fluctuating campaign.

The Sharks have a bye this weekend and it has been a time of introspection for the coaching staff and the players.

Their patchy form has left them with just four wins in nine outings and they face an uphill battle to reach the play-offs.

It has been the most frustrating of seasons for coach John Plumtree, who is still looking for the complete performance. Early breakdown (and refereeing) problems saw them narrowly beaten in their away games to the Bulls and Stormers but more recently it has been their shoddy defensive work and then a lack of individual, finishing skills which has failed them at critical moments.

Plumtree’s squad, a healthy mix of young and old and with quality cover in every area, started the year with high hopes.

But, like the defending champion Reds and the fancied but struggling Auckland Blues, they were hit where it hurts most even before the first shot was fired. Their most physical forwards, Beast Mtawarira, Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel, were sidelined from the start and they were quickly joined by Ross Skeate and Ryan Kankowski.

The youngsters, Dale Chadwick at prop, lock Anton Bresler and flank Marcell Coetzee, have performed admirably in the most testing conditions, but it has often been a case of hanging on rather than controlling exchanges.

At times the Sharks have been without nine Springboks in their squad and it has been at lock and in the backrow that they have been hardest hit.

“Our forwards have struggled to gain real dominance in this competition,” says Plumtree and he has regularly opted for a 5-2 split, forwards to backs, on the bench to help boost the pack.

Disappointingly, Springbok second-rower Alistair Hargreaves has made no impact this season and is now on his bike and headed for London, while fellow lock Ross Skeate, a hard and productive worker, has been hit by serious injury.

This has opened the door for young Bresler, who turned 24 at the start of the season, and he has stood up bravely in the second row. The heavily involved Bresler, who should know, is convinced that with senior players sidelined the Sharks have lacked the experience to ruthlessly and clinically transform strong positions into winning ones.

“It’s true, we’ve been very inconsistent this season,” he told Michael Marnewick, editor of the Sharks website this week.

“With the side we have, we know we’re capable of doing much better than that.

“Even the games we won weren’t always pretty and we know we can play better rugby than we have been.

“It is a new team environment with many youngsters,” he says of the squad which has nine players in their first season of Super Rugby for the Sharks and a further half-dozen in their second year.

“It’s all very well saying how enthusiastic we are and that we bring a lot of energy, but we are still learning. That’s not an excuse, even though it is a different level of rugby, but it all takes time and, hopefully, will all work out well.”

Bresler says they still should have beaten the log-leading Chiefs last Saturday.

“But we made too many [errors] in the wrong areas. You don’t want to lose possession in your own 22 or in the opposition’s 22 …

“On attack we work so hard to get into those vital areas, but then we slip-up. Perhaps a bit of patience could help, a pass that should or should not have been made.

“It boils down to composure on attack. We always speak about those things, we know what to do, we practise it on the training field, but in the game situation, that’s where it all counts and perhaps we’re get overly excited.”

Bresler says this weekend’s bye has come at an opportune moment in the campaign.

“It’s come at the right time, especially after the Chiefs game which was certainly our most physical game against an overseas team.”

The Sharks have seven remaining round robin games this season, with five at home and away fixtures to the Lions and the Cheetahs.

“If we win most of our games, which we know we are capable of achieving, we can earn a spot in the play-offs,” he says.

Last year the Sharks finished sixth on the log and had to travel to New Zealand to face the Crusaders.

“That’s not ideal and it’s not what we want. If we can improve on last year’s sixth place, we’ll take it,” the DHS product says.

Plumtree says his players showed against the Chiefs that they can stay with the best in the competition.

“If we can add some accuracy to the commitment and attitude we showed against the Chiefs, we’ll be very hard to beat.”

But time is not on their side and they will be under intense pressure next Saturday when they face the Highlanders, still seeking the consistency and accuracy that have blighted their Super Rugby season.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.