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S’bura’s big push

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 9 Oct 2014 at 09:55
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

If reports are to be believed (and common sense to prevail) then it seems as though the Sharks will ask S’bura Sithole to step once more in the Sharks number 13 jersey. Despite some impressive performances in that position, Sithole, it seems, has never quite managed to convince the brains trust that he should be an automatic selection there, but will have the opportunity over the next few weeks to do exactly that.

Paul Jordaan’s injury is a bitter blow indeed and one that the player can ill afford, given that he has only just started to find form. Sithole now looks set to profit from an extended run at 13, both in the latter stages of this Currie Cup and quite possibly also in Super Rugby next year, with the Sharks now looking decidedly thin in the position. A good run of games now (dare we hope for 3?) should leave the coaches feeling just a little more relaxed as they embark on inevitable the off-season shopping spree.

It’s been a big year for the former Blitzbok all the same. It’s no great secret that he struggled for any real game time under John Plumtree, with an unfortunate injury on the eve of last year’s Currie Cup meaning no chance to impress Brendan Venter either. Jake White, to his credit, is the one who plucked Sithole from Vodacom Cup obscurity, gave him a new position and a new lease on life and backed him for large portions of the Super Rugby season, with a Bok training squad call-up the result. Positional uncertainty ever since the June international break, though, has seen S’bura take a slight step back, in my mind and he would, I imagine, have slipped a little down the Bok pecking order in the intervening months.

My view is clear: while I’m sure Sithole could become a very good wing in time, I feel he has the potential to develop into a truly great outside centre, with just the right attributes and versatility to really excel in the position. He has pace and we know he has guile, based on his sevens exploits in years gone by, while this year has shown just how direct and physical he can be when the occasion warrants. His try against the Blue Bulls a few weeks back was a good example of this latter quality. A busy and aggressive defender, he has coped relatively well with the tricky 13 channel, but again the luxury of consistent selection in that position will only help him to develop further.

S’bura is not quite the finished product at 13, of course (not that any player ever is!). He seems to handle the ball better the more often he does it, meaning that if he’s in a position that gets him more involved, he tends to make fewer mistakes – perhaps he’s an overthinker who gets too much time to agonise over things when left out on the wing? At 13, he has two or three bad habits that need to be addressed – many of which could be hangovers from spending time at wing. He tends to seek contact a little too often, to my mind and should perhaps channel some of that sevens spirit and occasionally look for the space instead of the man. S’bura often ends up playing the crash-ball role, which is one that Andre Esterhuizen and the other 12s already have well covered. Your main job as a 13 specifically is to get behind the defenders with power and speed, but most importantly, put your wings and fullbacks in for the score.

Maintaining that continuity, while always a goal, can sometimes not be particularly well executed. He has a tendency to enter a tackle square on, leaving him no option of making a pass and far too much work to do in terms of presenting the ball as he goes to ground, which can often result in a turnover. Offloads, when they are attempted, are often a little desperate and not executed well enough to ensure continuity.

S’bura could also concentrate a little on the options he presents to his inside backs; a good 13 needs to create uncertainty in the minds of defenders by varying running lines and angles as a support runner. If the 13 always drifts with the backline, he offers the ball carrier only one option (the pass to is outside) which is ultimately very easy for defenders to read.

All of the above can (and I’m sure will) be corrected as he spends more time in the 13 jersey – and if there’s one thing you can say for sure it’s that S’bura is a fast learner. Here’s hoping that the silver lining to Jordaan’s awful injury could be an opportunity for Sithole to stand up and finally claim a permanent spot at outside centre.


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