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Sharks dig deep despite disruptions


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 18 Mar 2014 at 10:16
Tagged with : , , , , ,

Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White has praised his team for the manner in which they overcame disruptions during last week’s build-up to record an ultimately convincing win over former Super Rugby champions the Reds.

Reading between the lines, it seems as though the shock waves that rippled through the fan base as first Paul Jordaan and then later Pieter-Steph du Toit were confirmed as knee injury victims were felt far more keenly still within the camp. I’m not quite sure exactly what the circumstances were leading up to du Toit’s injury, in particular, but there seemed, to me at least, to some sort of a pallour hanging over the team as they played on Saturday, suggesting that the harsh reality of life as a professional sportsman has affected each one of them in a very personal way just days before the game.

Not that the Sharks necessarily looked like a disrupted team, though. The new men to come in – particularly lock Stephan Lewies and centre S’bura Sithole, who were each starting for the first time at this level – acquitted themselves well and the team hardly seemed to lack cohesion. Certainly, for the first 35 minutes or so the Sharks went about their business in a thoroughly organised and professional, if perhaps somewhat dispirited, fashion and any lack of adventure on attack could, I’m sure, be marked down to the unfavourable conditions. The half-time statistics showed that the Sharks had committed only a single handling error to the Reds’ five, a pretty clear indication that the right approach was selected for the day, regardless of the lack of tries inherent to that style of play.

What happened after that, though, is anyone’s guess. White has stopped short of publicly admitting that the players went to sleep, but for the fourth time in as many matches, the rampant Sharks allowed themselves a “quiet quarter”, suffering from a drop in intensity and precision that opened the door just wide enough for their opponents to force a foot through. We all know just how tight the margins can be at this level of the game; a 15 or 20 point lead is not one you can really afford to defend against any team in Super Rugby, as we saw on Saturday. Two quick tries were all it took for half-time’s assured win to turn into a mad scramble with 20 minutes to play.

I can only speak for myself here, but I find myself very much in two minds about what I saw. While I’m obviously thrilled at the string of results, it does concern me that the Sharks are repeatedly suffering from these extended soft periods, periods where discipline falters, execution standards drop off and attitude seems poor. We can hardly bemoan a lack of desire to win, though, since the team has not (yet) failed to recover sufficiently to secure the points, but the perfectionist in me does wonder what kinds of scores could have been achieved had we seen 80 minute performances – particularly against the Hurricanes and Reds, where bonus points really should have been secured given the big half-time margins.

That said, when staking up the positives, you can understand this is really only a minor consideration – and why White simply has no justification or need to heap anything but praise on his team (at least publicly). Perhaps we need to be careful of over-analysis here; these boys are only human at the end of the day and were dealt a couple of big blows during the week as they saw close friends lost to injury and bereavement. They found a way to put that behind them and beat a top side by a margin of 15 points, in the Durban humidity. That’s a result that’s good enough for the coaches and should, I think, be good enough for the fans.



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