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Picking up the pieces

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 20 Apr 2015 at 15:01
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How do the Sharks go about salvaging something from a 2015 season that has, frankly, been nothing short of a disaster? With the benefit of a bye week (and the opportunity to take stock) followed by a tough tour on which nobody should rightly expect them to pick up any wins, could this be the opportunity for the Sharks to start making some sensible decisions?

We need to be clear: there is simply no chance of a meaningful recovery from here. With away games against the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Waratahs coming up next, the Sharks will not find themselves having anything to play for by the time their somewhat easier fixtures against the Reds and Rebels come around later next month. Rather, the goal should be to make steady improvements with a young team on tour, aiming for a competitive showing in Brisbane and – dare we dream? – a big win over the Rebels on their return to Kings Park. The team should forego the result of the next three games, in other words, and rather focus on incremental improvements in their game, with an eye to the future.

Building the spine of a young team that can compete in this year’s Currie Cup, playing the fabled “attractive brand of rugby”, must surely be the goal.

Inevitably, there are going to be tough choices made. The coaches are going to have to be bold and make some big calls. Here are just a few of the things I’d like them to consider:

- Franco Marais missed a few lineouts against the Bulls, but has done enough otherwise to show that he may just be the future at hooker post Bismarck. I understand that the big Bok has to tour and will probably regain his starting berth at some point, but please, let’s ensure that Marais continues to grow as well by giving him ample game time on tour.

- No tour spot for Matt Stevens, please. It was an interesting experiment, but it hasn’t worked and we need to call time on it.

- Etienne Oosthuizen is not a flank; what’s more, he’s about the only promising young option we have at 4 lock. While it breaks my heart to say it, we need to leave Giant Mtayanda at home (since he’s not really “ours”) and pick Etienne to start every game on tour. Mouritz Botha, lovely as he is, is a stopgap and not the man we need for the future.

- Since we’re not going to have the du Preez twins available (and Tera Mtembu still seems to be in doubt), we should be sure to take at least one promising young loose forward on tour. Khaya Majola gets my vote, since we have absolutely no other cover for Marcell Coetzee at 6 and we know he’s not going to play Currie Cup.

- Stefan Ungerer has to tour as the back up scrumhalf. Conrad Hoffmann is another player in whom we have already invested too much and cannot consider any more.

- Fred Zeilinga is in the Franco Marais category, to an extent. We need to look past a poor performance against the Bulls and back the player to improve through more game time. Fred has been jerked around by a succession of coaches and his confidence must be low. We need to fix that, because we have no other backup to Pat Lambie.

- Andre Esterhuizen is the future at 12 and he needs to stay there, regardless of Frans Steyn’s availability. S’bura Sithole and Paul Jordaan must obviously also tour as outside centre options meaning no room for Waylon Murray on the plane.

- Fullback is a position of real concern and I would love to use the tour to blood a new option in this position; however, candidates are hardly lining up around the block. Perhaps Jordaan could be given four games in the number 15 jersey to see how he does? After all, there really is nothing to lose.


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