Sharks tackle their way to the top

The Sharks head the Super 14 standings after two rounds and while it is obviously early days yet, indications are they could be hovering in the play-off zone for most of the season.

Their victories, over two of the 2006 semi-finalists – the Bulls and Waratahs – may not have produced the same exhilarating rugby that saw them come within one point of the play-offs last year, but it does have a far more important feature … rock solid defence.

In 160 minutes of Super rugby in 2007 the Sharks have not conceded a try – the only team in the competition whose line has not been breached.

In their 17-3 win over the Bulls in Round One the opposition scored a solitary penalty and in the 22-9 win over the Waratahs last Friday there were three penalties … but no tries.

The defence of the Sharks is a factor that has pleased both coach Dick Muir and captain John Smit.

Both are aware that the first two rounds were marked by “ugly” rugby, but when you are chasing play-offs spots you take any win you can.

“The most important thing about the game against the Waratahs is obviously the win,” Smit said.

“Obviously we have to see it in perspective. The game could have gone anyway.

“A lot of kicks were missed by the Waratahs and a lot of opportunities went missing. Our goal-kickers stuck it through the middle and I’m just glad the boys stuck to it,” he added.

But it is the team’s defence that pleases him most.

“The defence was pretty good. No-one came over our line again – for two weeks now. So we just have to keep on working on the other aspects,” Smit said.

And with such good defensive structures it is not surprising that the Sharks have toppled some of the competition’s big guns.

“When we looked at our schedule [before the start of the season] we realised the two teams first up had played in the semi-finals and Final in the last two years.

“The Waratahs are probably one of the best and most consistent outfits over the last few years and one of the favourites to go all the way this year. It didn’t work out for them this week, but we have beaten a good side.”

Muir was equally pleased with the win, regardless of the manner in which it was achieved.

“That is one thing you can’t take away from this team, the win,” Muir said.

“I don’t care how ugly it looks, these two victories [over the Bulls and Waratahs], but last year we played exciting rugby, but lost these games.

“I certainly don’t care about the quality of the rugby in our first two game. We won without playing nearly as well as we can and it is victories like these that will help you reach the play-offs,” the coach added.

365 Digital

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