Sharks must stick to plan

2014-05-16 00:00

SHARKS and Springboks legend Andre Joubert has defended the recent more circumspect approach adopted by the Super Rugby leaders, saying there was little point changing what had already worked successfully for them this season.

Questions have been raised about the Durban side’s tactics and title credentials after they began to falter in recent weeks, although they still remain top of the table despite two losses from their last three games.

They lost to the Highlanders at King’s Park in their final match before heading on tour, where they have so far beaten the Rebels 22-16 in Melbourne and lost 16-9 to the Brumbies in Canberra.

Director of rugby Jake White now leads his side into what was always going to be their toughest match of the trip, against the Crusaders in Christchurch, where they have never won, and Joubert insists there is no point changing their game plan against the seven-time former champions.

“Results are what count first and foremost,” he said.

“If you can do that and then add the more attacking and high-risk rugby to your game, then that’s great. But winning is the most important thing and that’s what the Sharks have been doing.

“The conservative way they’ve played has worked for Jake. I think it’s part of his game play that way. Especially against some of the tougher opponents. Don’t play any high-risk rugby.

“The main thing for him, I think, is to just keep the points ticking over on the table.”

The 50-year-old, who played 34 Tests for the Boks and was an integral member of the 1995 World Cup-winning team, felt the Sharks have the ability to change their tactics if the need arises.

“I think once they’re under the pump, the game plan will start changing, but up until now it’s worked, so there’s no need to change,” he said.

He explained that injuries to key players were also not aiding the Durbanites after three of their key men were presently missing from the set-up.

Flyhalf Patrick Lambie is out for the season with a torn biceps tendon, while lock Pieter-Steph du Toit is out for the entire year with an ACL injury.

Both those injuries happened fairly early in the campaign and the pair were joined by flanker Marcell Coetzee after he hurt his shoulder on the Australasian tour.

The loose forward has returned home with second-choice flyhalf Fred Zeilinga also joining him after picking up a hamstring problem.

“Unfortunately they’ve had some key injuries now and it’s very rare that you lose two flyhalves in one season,” Joubert, known as the “Rolls Royce” of fullbacks, said.

“That’s put Jake under a bit of pressure, but he’s still managed to cope with it until now.

“The injuries have been critical because they come in key areas. If you look at the calibre of players injured, they are key and they come in even more key positions. If you lose your lineout guy, your guy whose fetching your ball and the guy whose your playmaker, it’s hard enough to replace them.”

He felt that the depth of the team was being put to the test, but thought the “back-up” had so far coped well.

Joubert, who played over 100 Super Rugby and Currie Cup games for the Sharks, has no doubt the current squad has the credentials to go all the way and win the title for the first time.

“They’re not top of the log for nothing,” he said. “They’re playing some of the teams who are in top form at the moment and they’re going to have to show real character.

“But they certainly have the credentials to go all the way,” he added.

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