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Scrum! Scrum! Scrum!

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 24 Jun 2011 at 14:49
Tagged with : , , , , ,

For the Sharks to burgle a victory in Nelson tomorrow morning, the dual mantras of “keep it simple, keep it tight” and “scrum! scrum! scrum!” are the ones they should be repeating over and over to themselves as they sleep.

The Crusaders’ ultimately comfortable victory at Twickenham a few months back was built far more on scrum dominance than it was on the freakish talents of their playmakers in midfield. Simply put, the Crusaders 8 pulled together that day to hand out a lesson to the Sharks boys upfront and as any backline player worth his salt will tell you, it’s just so much easier to do clever things with the ball when you get it moving forwards. The Sharks had defensive issues in midfield – there’s no disputing that fact – and these may partially have been caused by the sudden change in flyhalf during a week that didn’t allow for a huge number of practice opportunities, given the travel involved.

The simplest way to avoid being found wanting on defence, though, is not to have to tackle. And that means two things – winning the ball and retaining it. Hence the necessary focus on set-piece dominance and a possession-oriented game plan to starve the hosts of the pill, frustrate them and then capitalise on whatever results from that frustration.

It’s all rather simple, I guess and with the massive pack that John Plumtree has picked, together with the anticipated inclement weather that’s likely to cause a wet game, devoid of any fancy stuff, the Sharks actually look reasonably well-placed to sneak an upset here. Accuracy will be key, at the set piece and in terms of handling, as well as discipline, given the fact that they’re unlikely to get any advantage from Bryce Lawrence’s interpretations. Kicks are going to be inevitable, since territory is going to be key as well, but it is crucial once again that these are executed well and find touch when intended (and are well chased when they don’t) in order to avoid giving the home side ball with which to attack. The relative inexperience of fullback Tom Marshall might also play into the kickers’ hands in this regard.

The Sharks, in short, have the personnel up-front to hand the Crusaders a bloody nose in the tight exchanges. Whether they will be able to actually effect that dominance after the challenges of the last week, though, should ultimately decide this encounter.


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