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What we learned at the NMB Stadium


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 1 Sep 2015 at 11:50
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

While I’m not quite ready to do a full-blown player ratings piece for this work-in-progress Sharks Currie Cup team, I’d like to pick up on a few aspects from the performance against the Kings in PE on Saturday.

It’s a frustrating time to be a Sharks supporter, of course. We are caught in a delicate balancing act between supporting an inexperienced team to the hilt, backing them to learn and grow and trying our hardest not to erode their fledgling confidence. There’s no doubt that we have a group of rather talented youngsters in the mix and that they will only improve the more they play together and that we, as fans, need patience. The flip side, though, is that other teams in this year’s competition (the Bulls in particular) boast a similarly inexperienced team, yet seem to have already found a way to play exciting, winning rugby. It gets rather exhausting having to “take a few positives” out of another poor performance, when the opposition is sprinting away from us at the top of the log.

Rebuilding is fine, and all, but we are the Sharks and we do not miss out on the Currie Cup play-offs. That’s just a given, a basic minimum requirement if you coach this team or wear this jersey.

Let’s not beat around the bush – while it is very pleasing (in a relieving sort of way) that we won the game, it ended up being far closer than it should have been and fell way short of what I’d consider a good performance. That the fourth try, at the very least, couldn’t be scored is inexcusable.

So let’s look at what we’ve learned and hope that these lessons can be put to good use in the games to come.

- Joe Pietersen, Michael Claassens and Philip van der Walt are pure class. You simply cannot build a team of youngsters without an experienced spine and these three players are worth their combined weight in finest platinum. Van der Walt is the competition’s leading tackler and in a team that averages nearly 20% of tackles missed per game, you simply cannot overstate just how valuable that contribution has been. Likewise, the Sharks look a different outfit with Claassens clearing at the base, while Pietersen’s calm under pressure is exemplary.

- The tight five needs to pull up their socks. While certain individuals are putting in a solid shift every week, others seem content to play in fits and starts and it simply isn’t good enough at this level to not be permanently switched on. There was no fire whatsoever in the first half last week, while the second half turnaround showed that the issue wasn’t a lack of muscle, but rather a lack of attitude. Dale Chadwick and Etienne Oosthuizen, in particular, need to sort themselves out because they are not inexperienced players and honestly owe us more than we’re seeing right now.

- It’s all breaking down at flyhalf. Lionel Cronje isn’t working out – not consistently. He’s making too many basic errors and putting the team under pressure. As such, even when the forwards do manage to secure good ball for Claassens to distribute, it’s just not getting to the right places in the right ways and that, I’m afraid, is pretty much solely down to Cronje. It’s admirable that the coach continues to back him, but it’s perhaps time to learn the lesson that virtually every other coach has already learned about this player and move on to someone more consistent.

- Thomas du Toit. WOW. After the criticism he’s endured during the week, Thomas was simply outstanding. I’m not sure I understand all of the reasons behind his determination to play tighthead, but my word, as a loosehead he’s already pretty close to world class. I have no concerns about his mobility and his work rate puts plenty of other lighter and more mobile players to shame. I have no doubt that in time he will develop into a world beating number 3, because he is just pure class and has probably the best attitude of any 20-year-old player I’ve yet seen. Dan du Preez is another youngster that is playing seriously well and needs to be backed as far as possible.

- Keep on the way you’re going, Franna Kleinhans. He’s by no means a youngster and he’s had terrible luck with injury the last few years. Finally out the shadow of Daniel, Botes and Coetzee and profiting from an unfortunate injury to Majola, Kleinhans seems to realise that this is his big (and perhaps last?) break and he’s playing like a man who ensures to keep that number 6 jersey firmly glued to his back, no matter what. We talk about attitude and this guy has it – sometimes, a little (or perhaps a lot of) adversity brings the best out a player and I feel that all the setbacks over the last few years have only firmed Kleinhans’s resolve. If we had 15 of him in the team we’d never lose.

- Momentum is crucial, don’t ruin it. The timing of Gary Gold’s substitutions this week was poor and I found that particularly frustrating given that he mentioned this as an issue against the Lions the week before. While the move to bring du Toit on at half time was a master stroke, I simply cannot fathom the last quarter glut of replacements. Why take Dan du Preez off the moment he’s scored a great try and is sure to be high on confidence? With a bonus point looming and the pack finally on top, why replace the scrumhalf whose crisp service has been key to momentum, while doing nothing about the out-of-sorts flyhalf beside him? It smacks of having a predetermined plan and being determined to “give everyone a run”, rather than making only those changes that are warranted given the situation.



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