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2015: a team failure needs a team response

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 15 Oct 2015 at 12:00
Tagged with : , , , ,

As fans who’ve endured the worst year, results wise, in at least a decade of Sharks rugby, it’s perhaps inevitable that the last few months of 2015 will be spent in deep contemplation, trying desperately to work out what went wrong and to seek out some signs of hope for the future. Even more inevitable, I guess, will be the temptation to look for obvious scapegoats – to identify one or more individuals on whom we can pin this season-long disappointment, whose departures we can attempt to engineer, whose names we can besmirch in the hope that their removal might suddenly result in a 2016 upswing.

I too have allowed myself to dabble in this sort of thinking over the last few weeks, as the poor results have continued to roll in and no major signs of improvement have been forthcoming. You need to be very careful, though, not to get to married to an idea or an explanation for what’s going on and let that blind you to any other inputs. I’ve been doing some thinking over the last few days and come to a rather different (if no less palatable) conclusion; the Sharks woes are unfortunately not something that we can place at the door of one or two individuals and I’m afraid that despite the temptation to look at knee-jerk firings as a quick fix, these are unlikely to do anything other than make things worse.

Where we are right now, in my view, is the very complex result of a large number of factors over the past few years. The Sharks, in a nutshell, really have screwed up in a lot of different areas. Some of those fall squarely at the feet of “management” – the revolving door recruitment policy that has seen up to 30% player turnover from one campaign to the next, the reliance on imports and journeymen while young talent is allowed to leave, the failure to ensure any sort of continuity in the coaching systems, and the list goes on. Junior structures are not healthy (as evidenced by the under 19 and also Vodacom Cup results this year) and again, we can look at zero continuity there as a result of changes in personnel at the Academy, recruitment and junior coaching teams.

There are things for which we can and should hold the coaches to account; chronic defensive lapses tend to be top of mind in this area, but there is no shortage of other issues with the on-field showing, for which Gary Gold and his assistants must take the blame. Holding them solely responsible, though, would be unfair. They do what they can during the week and live or die by the decisions they make leading up to the kick off, but it’s the players who need to knuckle down and deliver during the 80 minutes that matter. We can (and should) look at the player corps and ask questions about the quality that we have – however, we cannot and should not hide from those instances where players have let themselves, their team mates, their coaches and their fans down, through delivering performances that are simply not commensurate with their abilities.

In a nutshell, the Sharks failure of 2015 is something for which everyone involved has to take a level of accountability and which is going to require a unified, joined-up and far-reaching response in order to rectify. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will dive into each of these issues in more depth to try to find some more concrete answers, but I warn you now that “simply” removing Gary Gold, John Smit, or any other scapegoat of the day is highly unlikely to make things any better in the short – or even medium – term.


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