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Trophy wanted? Brains needed

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 23 Mar 2015 at 07:43
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

I was one of the people who joined the chorus of outrage when Bismarck du Plessis and Frans Steyn were red-carded for their antics against the Chiefs. While I like to think I stopped short of going full-scale postal on Twitter, I did question the commitment and attitude of both players; accusing them of being selfish, egotistical and believing themselves to be “bigger than the game”.

Can this really be? After all, these are two stalwarts of Sharks rugby who have been at the forefront of so many notable triumphs and have never played (senior) rugby for any other South African province. They have both served the team with distinction over so many campaigns, can it really be the case that they would now suddenly no longer care for the team or their fans? It seems odd, doesn’t it?

I’ve done a fair bit of introspection since the heat of battle has abated and tried to isolate exactly why I got so upset (and why to be honest, I’m still upset) given that their actions ultimately didn’t end up costing the team victory. At least, not a small victory on Saturday and perhaps therein lies the rub; the implications in terms the overall campaign are likely to be far reaching.

Looking at the immediate consequences, I felt at the time (and still do) that Bismarck cost the team a bonus point. When Hika Elliot was sent off after just 15 minutes, there is very little doubt that, had the Sharks simply kept their cool, they could have used that one-man advantage over the course of the remaining 65 to build a big win. They don’t say that red cards “end the contest” for nothing and by playing on the wrong side of the aggression line, the Chiefs lost out on that gamble. For a senior player (never mind our captain) to then go and even up that score by getting himself sent off after what hardly even counts as minor provocation was nothing less than criminally stupid. Steyn’s offence was only marginally less so and surely, given the precedent that had been set, any smart player would have known not to tempt fate – or the referee’s patience – any further?

(As an aside, the citing commissioner has since decided that Liam Messom’s choke hold on Renaldo Bothma, which happened simultaneously with Bismarck’s transgression, was also a red card offence. Who’s to say that, had our captain not lost hi cool, we mightn’t have found ourselves playing with 15 against 13?)

Aside from that, there are far reaching consequences. The Sharks now sit without two of their leadership corps for (I guess) at least the next month, not currently knowing what Seyn’s suspension period will be. With Tera Mtembu already injured, the leadership burden now falls squarely on Pat Lambie, a player due for a rest in any event. With Steyn the man designated to fill in at flyhalf when that happens, his upcoming suspension has now handed the coaches (and Lambie himself) a double whammy.

After a poor start, the odds are already stacked against this Sharks team and with a relatively larger burden to manage in terms of resting senior players (since they have more) we simply cannot afford for anyone in the setup to not be completely focused on the bigger picture and the plan. There is no room for stupid, willful antics and I simply cannot be convinced that either Bismarck or Frans spared even a moment’s thought for their teammates when acting the way they did. Bigger than the team? You decide…


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