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Play to your strengths, Sharks

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 6 Aug 2014 at 12:21
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

While the Sharks go into the upcoming Currie Cup campaign a little bit light on experience, given the large number of Super Rugby players out of contention, they nevertheless boast some key men in their ranks.

The challenge for the coaching staff will be to come up with – and implement – a style of play that suits the personnel available, rather than slavishly adhering to the Super Rugby blueprint that was based on up-front dominance and tactical kicking.

Analysing the way the Sharks played under Jake White, a number of key men stick out. Big, blockbusting loose forwards like Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel are used incessantly to suck in defenders and force opposition mistakes with big hits, while the big boot of Frans Steyn, in particular, is key to the sort of territorial dominance on which the game plan is built.

The Sharks will go into their 2014 title defence, though, with a far different mix in the back row and at half back. While it’s expected that the tight five should stand up well enough – and perhaps still dominate at scrumtime against many teams – the lack of really big loose forwards must surely necessitate a different approach. Coming up against more physical back rows, the Sharks cannot be sure of winning ball at the breakdown and thus should look to rather avoid contact, using the skills of Tera Mtembu and Jacques Botes to keep the ball alive, rather than always go to ground and recycle.

The approach once the ball is actually secured, though, will require even more thought. While Fred Zeilinga proved himself at this level last year, his kicking game lacks the length that Steyn’s has; and one feels that with a three-quarter line the envy of any other in the competition, a flyhalf that simply attempts to kick the cover off the ball at every opportunity would be playing away from the team’s strength, rather than towards them. No, with Paul Jordaan and S’bura Sithole in midfield, it is not in the Sharks’ interests to kick the ball away and they simply have to come up with a plan that involves using the creative centres and loose forwards to find space and exploit it.

In Tonderai Chavanga and Odwa Ndungane they’ll have a pair of devastating finishers unlikely to be matched in this watered-down competition, with the former quite possibly the fastest man in the Currie Cup this year.

The line out should be a strength too and we’re looking for innovative plays off this phase that make best use of Zeilinga’s variation on attack and the pace out wide.

Let’s hope that we get to see just a little bit more creativity with ball in hand this Currie Cup campaign.


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