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Two rounds in and where do we stand?


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 18 Aug 2015 at 10:49
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing regarding the publication of player ratings articles for this Currie Cup. They’re generally well received by readers as an easily-digestible snippet of opinion as to how individuals performed in a given game, but have also proved to be unpopular in certain quarters, since it is hard to accurately represent all the nuances of a particular performance in a simple (and often arbitrary) numerical score.

I am also very keen to give the Sharks a break at the moment, given the tough times they’ve been through of late. I also don’t believe in being overly harsh on new players coming into a system for the first time, since we all deserve a bit of time to settle into our jobs. Coupled with the fact that I wasn’t able to watch last Saturday’s game live, player ratings for the season will be on hold until I feel the team has settled down well enough to objectively rate the individuals. That may happen next week, but will more likely be the week after.

I did want to share some of my thoughts and observations after two rounds, pertaining to how I think the guys are going. None of this is meant to be either glowing endorsement or damning indictment, since it’s early days yet and none of us is blind to the long road the Sharks still have to travel. Injury has also been far more of a factor, even in these first two weeks, than we would have hoped (even if experience has taught us to always expect the worst).

The tight five, as a whole, has been inconsistent. A poor first half in Nelspruit (where they were completely dominated) was somewhat ameliorated in the second period, but they again seemed to disappear for a decent chunk of the Kings game. Thomas du Toit has played well generally, but not been as solid at tighthead as we’d like, while the other props seem to be playing musical chairs (Juan Schoeman looks decent, though). Monde Hadebe was much better all-round against the Kings, but his lineout work is a worry. Etienne Oosthuizen has had a quiet fortnight; disappointingly, since we’re looking for big things from him. Marco Wentzel soldiers on and does his best to hold things together, but all in all, over the first two weeks, I’ve not seen signs of this tight five turning into the sort of monster unit to rival Sharks engine rooms of old.

In the loose trio, it’s been much the same – there have been some individually good performances, but not much cohesion. If we look at the primary jobs – protecting the ball and linking with the backs – then it’s hard to say that the Sharks loosies are earning their crust at the moment, but injury disruption has again played a role. Daniel du Preez, pleasingly, is taking every chance he gets, while Philip van der Walt, as a senior player, is taking longer to settle than I’d hoped. The number 6 jersey is cursed, with both Khaya Majola and Jean Deysel succumbing to injury while wearing it, but Francois Kleinhans put in a very good cameo against the Kings and there must be some hope, at least, that he might finally deliver if given an extended run.

Gary Gold has done well to back Stefan Ungerer and Lionel Cronje at halfback, despite disappointing form from the former and rather patchy play from the latter. Michael Claassens is superb – we know that – but Gold sees it as his duty to allow Ungerer to develop and will, I’m sure, be rewarded by a player who has clear talent, despite battling a little to find his feet at the moment. Cronje did some lovely things against the Kings and has a nose for the try-line, but also has the propensity to make bad decisions and really needs to focus on more consistency in what he does.

Heimar Williams and Wandile Mjekevu haven’t clicked yet and have both, I’d say, put in two rather average performances on the trot. Paul Jordaan is looking closer to fitness than ever and must surely come strongly into the reckoning in Mjekevu’s place, but we need to remember that both he and Williams are very green at this level and are playing behind a struggling pack to boot. Andre Esterhuizen has been better than expected at wing, using his physicality to good effect, while Joe Pietersen at fullback is worth every penny spent. As the more experienced wingers in the squad, I’d say neither S’bura Sithole nor Odwa Ndungane has really shown us anything yet on the other side, which is disappointing.

So not a great start, all in all, but the log position isn’t too bad given all that and there’s hope that if the injury gods are kind, the Sharks may be able to build a little more continuity in the coming weeks. What we do need, though, is for the seniors (and by that I mean every player not in his first season) to man up and show the way, because that’s not something that’s universally happening right now.



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