When skills do not match the effort

2015-04-20 00:00

LAST time it was the poor tackling; this time it was poor execution of the basics which cost the Sharks the chance of downing the Bulls at King’s Park.

The weekend loss has effectively snuffed out their Super Rugby ambitions and it is now going to be a hard and painful grind through the final six weeks of competition.

This time, and after conceding 11 tries against the Crusaders and Lions over the previous fortnight, the passion of the Sharks, their courage and desperation in the tackle could not be faulted. The Bulls had all the ball and all the territory and did all the running, but they could only score one try in a 17-10 win.

The problem for the Sharks was that their skills did not match their effort. They held on tenaciously, and even led briefly, but their high error-rate, their inability to win their lineouts, retain their valuable scraps of possession and kick their goals killed off their challenge. They lost because, in the final analysis, they did not look after their ball. Hooker Franco Marais kept missing his lineout jumpers, they conceded 15 turnovers and the ­kicking of young flyhalf Fred Zeilinga, both at goal and out of hand, lacked accuracy and authority.

When a coach replaces his flyhalf after 67 minutes when the deficit just four points (14-10), you know there are problems in the land, and the missing of four relatively easy penalty kicks, three by Zeilinga and one by ­replacement Lionel Cronje, killed off their chances.

You have to feel for the unfortunate Zeilinga. While relatively small in stature (82 kg), he is brave in defence and enthusiastic on attack. But the 22-year-old is still feeling his way at this level. He is playing in a team struggling to find form, behind a pack that is often on the backfoot and is under the most intense pressure to kick critical goals in tight contests.

To be frank, these Sharks, without Pat Lambie to run the show, without Pieter-Steph du Toit to dominate in the lineout, without the all-round strengths of Bismarck du Plessis and without an X-factor at threequarter, are just not good enough.

This time they did really try, but the bottom line is that a team lacking in quality in certain areas simply ­cannot make that many mistakes with so little ball and expect to win. Finish and klaar.

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