Sharks retreat into shell

After a loss that was more demoralizing than the score-line suggested, the Sharks are returning to their Durban fortress, where they have ordered a media shut-out for the week ahead of their crucial fixture against the Lions.

Although the Sharks have turned in some great results this year, notably surprising the Blues at home two weekends ago, it is becoming increasingly evident that they are not performing to the potential of the talent which they have within their ranks.

Their loss to the Chiefs this weekend, in which they did show resolve to fight back after a thirty point blitz by the Chiefs, exemplified this.

Talented outside backs are barely receiving any ball, as the forwards and backs in the inside channel attack in a particularly tight fashion.

Far from reducing errors, errors have in fact increased – passes attempted in close contact are far harder to complete.

It is this style of play for which this year’s Super 14 has been particularly notable, with flailing sides like the Reds and the Waratahs in particular playing a close-quarters kind of combat-style of rugby.

Sharks coach Dick Muir told the media after the Saturday’s loss that he was disappointed with his side’s number of errors.

“We didn’t play the conditions well and we are not going to use them for an excuse. We did make too many basic errors and we need to tighten up on that. We were way off the mark with our execution,” Muir conceded.

Pundits have been impressed with the new venom of the Sharks pack under the tutelage of New Zealander and former Natal player John Plumtree.

But perhaps it has been forgotten that ball won on the front foot is won for the purpose of creating attacking opportunities further out wide, and is not success in itself.

The Sharks should however emerge as comfortable winners when they face the Lions on Saturday. The Lions, after a healthy start to the competition, have shown that they perhaps do not yet have the squad depth to sustain the marathon slog of the Super 14.

The Sharks pack should be too much for the Johannesburg side to handle.

But Muir realises that his side can ill afford another ill-timed defeat. Fortunately their rivals the Blues look to be in a similar slump themselves. But with the Bulls, Chiefs and Brumbies all looking dangerous, anything could happen from here on in.

“Just like all our games this is a must win,” Muir mused.

“I expect a typical South African derby. It will be a tough and tight affair against the Lions.


365 Digital

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