Alistair Hargreaves

The missing ingredient

2011-05-26 08:54
Alistair Hargreaves (File)
Alistair Hargreaves

“Good teams don’t become bad overnight.”

This old adage may be true. But why then, you may ask, are sports teams capable of beating the worlds’ best one day, and performing terribly the very next?

Obviously, the subject I’m referring to is the Sharks’ poor showing this weekend against a Bulls team fighting for survival in the Super Rugby competition.

After reviewing the game, it’s easy to see what went wrong. Poor handling, ineffective tackling, ill discipline… to name a few. 

Although our shortcomings were obvious, my question is why? How can a well-prepared team capable of producing world-beating rugby, produce such a lackluster performance?

Of course, there will be those parties who in their disappointment, question the players’ commitment. Some also believe the looming World Cup might be serving as a distraction to possible participants.

Armchair critics may attack certain players through which to vent their anger. This along with the usual criticisms of selection, game plan and coaching, will always go hand-in-hand with an under-performing team.

Don’t get me wrong; contrasting opinion is what makes sport so fantastic and why we love it so much. We all share the pain of defeat and rejoice in the spoils of victory.

Naturally, some critics are more insightful than others, but as paying participants in the world of rugby, we all have a certain right to demand the best from the players who represent us.

With the above noted, I would like to throw my two cents into the fray and disagree with some of the criticism that has been leveled at us.

The players are committed, the World Cup candidates are playing harder than ever and we boast a well-balanced side, led by some of the games’ most capable leaders.

So why then the poor result? The answer may lie in a topic that is well known to sportsman and sports fans alike: Mental toughness.

Mental toughness, in my books, is the ability to consistently produce positive results by being in the correct frame of mind to execute plays accurately, regardless of circumstance. That in my mind is what we lacked on the weekend.

We didn’t come out the blocks firing, quite the opposite in fact, and we lacked the composure to come back from our early deficit.

We felt the pressure of the position we found ourselves in and, as such, couldn’t settle into our normal game plan. Our erratic play was a direct result of that.

In short, although we had the ability to win, we weren’t able to adapt to a game that didn’t go our way right from the start.

One side that were mentally resolute on the weekend were the Stormers.

19-3 down to the log-leading Blues in Auckland and playing without a host of their big names, they did not crumble under the pressure.

They fought back to pull off one of the great Super Rugby victories. That is maybe one of the reasons they are leading the South African conference.

We have now put ourselves in a position where we must win at all costs. We realise that we should have played better rugby and be in an improved position, but the fact is we’re not.

If we are to triumph, we need to find that mental edge that makes good teams great.

Our season is far from over, and we have a responsibility to start playing the type of quality rugby that could see us into the knockout stages of this illustrious competition.

The type of rugby that does justice to the jersey we are all so passionate about.

Alistair Hargreaves was educated at Durban High School and captained the SA Schools side in 2004. Besides being a stalwart in the Sharks' second row, he's also played two Tests for the Springboks.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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