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The Missing Link

Written by Ryan Quirk (The Quirk)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 10 Apr 2012 at 08:57
Tagged with : , , , , ,

And no, I’m not talking about Willem Alberts.  Something is missing in the Sharks team in 2012 and I’ve decided to venture an opinion on what it might be.

What has gone wrong?  The Sharks are currently third in the SA conference with 3 wins from 7 games.  They have lost to the Hurricanes, Waratahs, Stormers and Bulls.  They were in with a shot of winning three of the four games which would suggest that they’re not too far away from being a very competitive side, especially when you consider where the teams they’ve lost against are sitting on the overall log, with the exception of the Waratahs.

So why did are the Sharks losing the close games?

There are a few reasons, the first being leadership.  The Sharks have had strong leaders in John Smit and, in his absence, Johan Muller and Stefan Terblanche, in the recent past.  All those men are gone, and with them their cool heads, their tactical nous and, perhaps most importantly, their ability to bring calm to those around them in the midst of a storm of panic.  You can’t just replace players like that.  Their successors must learn from experience, from being in tough situations where all looks lost or when they’re standing on that knife edge between success and failure.

The Sharks threw the game away against the Waratahs, they had a good lead and let it slip due to a loss in concentration.  One could blame jet-lag and travel fatigue for that; but against the Bulls, Stormers and even the Hurricanes they were almost frantic.  Defensive structures failed and tries were scored against the run of play.  The basics of the game were left at home and one got the impression that it was fifteen individuals playing their hearts out, not a team playing as one…

The second reason I see for the Sharks current mid-table malaise is a lack of discipline, which harkens back to my previous point about leadership.  They are making errors at key times and throwing away a multitude of scoring opportunities as a result.  I’ve nearly pulled my hair out watching how, time and again, the Sharks knock-on, or give away penalties when they’re on the verge of scoring.  I won’t single out any individuals, but it is something that they need to concentrate on, and hard.  Scoring when you’re in the strike zone is a mark of successful teams, and the Sharks just aren’t doing it often enough.

So the missing link then is experienced leadership, discipline and attention to detail when it comes to the basics of rugby, all of which are related.  The answer?  I don’t know.  Someone somewhere once said, “Pat Lambie was born experienced.”  Perhaps it’s time to give the kid the armband and see if he can cut the mustard as captain.  I think he can.  Perhaps Al Hargreaves when he comes back from injury, even Jean Deysel has what it takes, I believe, to be a successful captain.  Only time will tell, but in the mean time I sincerely hope that at least two of the three missing links are attended to.  Discipline and the basics of the game.


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