Durban - A disappointed Sharks coach Robert du Preez has accepted responsibility for his team’s poor performance against the Rebels in Melbourne and has said that it is up to him and his fellow coaches to turn the team’s campaign around.
They may not face quite the sort of crisis that the Australian cricket team currently do but it is nonetheless a dark time for the Sharks, who lost to the Brumbies in their opening game of tour before being comprehensively thumped 46-14 by the Rebels in Melbourne. It doesn’t get any easier for the Sharks from here, with the Blues and Hurricanes waiting for them on the other side of the Tasman Sea, according to supersport.com website.
The one mitigating factor for the Sharks in the Melbourne game was that at least, unlike the Canberra game where the Brumbies were just the better of two poor teams, they were beaten by a team on top of its game. The Rebels’ South African coach Dave Wessels certainly has a good thing going and he has been helped by the personnel boost that came about because of the reduction in Australian teams participating in Super Rugby from five to four.
But it has to be disturbing for Sharks fans that their team could be so well beaten, with the Sharks offering little by way of response to the energetic and well organised Rebels, who could easily have won by an even bigger score had they made better use of their opportunities.
“It was hugely disappointing and it is obviously something we need to fix as coaches,” said a crestfallen Du Preez from Australia.
“(Correcting this) has to start first and foremost with us as coaches, and me personally. It is never nice to lose like that. It’ very tough for the boys. At least I can say that the one positive is that we never lacked for effort. But unfortunately the accuracy and execution is missing, and that is something we need to fix.”
The Sharks play the Blues in Auckland on Saturday and a quick fix will be needed if the Sharks are not to lose heavily again as the Blues are a much improved team this season. As Du Preez stated, the Sharks are going to have to somehow get rid of the fog that must be clouding their minds after the Rebels defeat and go to New Zealand in a positive frame of mind.
“We have had some really tough discussions around what went wrong. It has been a tough couple of days for us. But we have put that game behind us now and we are looking forward to the Blues game,” said the coach.
“We are in good spirits and we know we have a massive task ahead of us. We must fix this and go forward. I am positive we can do that and the players are all positive. We are going to go all out to try and fix what went wrong.”
While Du Preez is right that the coaches must take responsibility, he might also help himself if he takes a closer look at the on-field leadership. When the Sharks were on a roll in the Currie Cup last season there wasn’t much need to scrutinise the captaincy of Ruan Botha, but given the flat response that the Sharks appear to offer when under pressure and when there is a need to lift, perhaps it is time to start asking questions not only of the coaches but also of the leadership on the field.
The experienced former Currie Cup winning Sharks captain Keegan Daniel was omitted from the tour group and is watching everything unfold from home, but the Sharks will be boosted in New Zealand by the addition of a recent former captain in the form of Philip van der Walt.
The loose-forward will be flying to New Zealand as a replacement for Jacques Vermeulen, who has been suspended for two weeks after being found guilty of foul play against the Rebels. Van der Walt has been injured for a couple of weeks but has now recovered just in time to add his leadership skills and experience to a playing group that is in desperate need of it.