Sharks: Lack of tries, injuries major concerns for upcoming Cheetahs game

2013-04-15 00:00

THE Sharks had another one of their underwhelming, eminently forgettable days when old problems resurfaced and they were beaten 22-15 by a workmanlike rather than irresistible Stormers outfit in their Super Rugby derby at Newlands on Saturday evening.

The Sharks were flattered by their losing bonus point, salvaged from the wreckage of a disappointingly ragged display, by Pat Lambie kicking his fifth penalty on the final hooter. They are still at the top of the South African conference, but further injuries, including one to Springbok wing JP Pietersen, along with the quality of their setpiece and an inability to score tries, are now major concerns.

Injuries, because they are concentrated in the backrow (Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Jacques Botes) and at outside threequarter (Pietersen, Lwazi Mvovo, Louis Ludik and Tim Whitehead), are proving particularly disruptive, denying the Sharks the power to attack down the middle or the pace and skill to strike out wide.

Fullback Frans Steyn has still to sparkle — he was replaced by Riaan Viljoen for the last quarter at Newlands — and even flyhalf Pat Lambie is looking tentative in a backline which is aligned too deep in attack.

Significantly, the Sharks have failed to score a try in four of their seven games.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder was one of many who thought the Sharks’ superior setpiece would prove decisive in this game. But the Sharks pack, containing six current Springbok squad members — and Test props in Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis — played second fiddle to the young Stormers forwards. This prevented them building pressure on the Stormers and go-forward ball for their backs who, on current form, need all the help they can get.

The Stormers were the more desperate team, but they were no more than competent on the day and that was enough to see off what was, in the words of captain Keegan Daniel, “a very disjointed Sharks team”.

The Sharks’ backrow (without Jean Deysel and Willem Alberts) lacks physicality and lock Piet-Stef du Toit, one of the few forwards able to stand up in a tackle and off-load, would surely have bothered the Stormers more if he operated off the side of the scrum with Anton Bresler in the second-row adding to the lineout options.

Coach John Plumtree said yesterday that he could find little positive in the Sharks’ display. “We lacked a big ball-carrier and we are a bit irritated that we did not show up more. We were definitely off the money and we didn’t handle the pressure the Stormers put on us.”

Plumtree was critical of the Sharks’ tactical kicking and their attack. “We didn’t create opportunities for our backs and we were disappointed in some of our work in contact. It really wasn’t a good day for our forwards and our backs were not much better. All-round it was a pretty average performance.”

Deysel (ankle) was a late withdrawal from the bench and Plumtree said that Pietersen, who is attending a two-day Springbok camp, would have a scan on his injured ankle in Cape Town.

The Sharks face the lively, confident Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday evening and Plumtree said they now had 12 or 13 players on the injury list. The loss of Pietersen, a world-class wing, would be a major blow.

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