Sharks ‘lack imagination’
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town – A shortage of subtlety could cost the Sharks in their Super Rugby semi-final against the Crusaders in Christchurch on Saturday, says pundit and former All Blacks scrumhalf Justin Marshall.
Effectively firing the first salvo in the pre-match “verbals”, Marshall, who spent nine years on the books of the seven-time champion ‘Saders, has accused the visitors of lacking imagination.
Writing in his column for the New Zealand Herald (www.nzherald.co.nz
) on Monday, the now television commentator said the Highlanders had been “the better team over the 80 minutes” in their finals series first round 31-27 loss to the Sharks at Kings Park on Saturday.
“All the points the Sharks scored, apart from their try through (replacement) wing Tonderai Chavhanga, originated from their set piece. Will that be enough to beat the Crusaders? I’m not sure it will be.
“I fear for the Sharks’ hopes in Christchurch. They look like a team with a game plan (of) smashing people up front, but little else.
“They outmuscled the Crusaders in their round-robin match (the Sharks won 30-25 in Christchurch on May 17 – Sport24) and you would think that will be their approach again.”
Marshall did laud the visitors’ defensive effort in that upset: “It was memorable that night, when they won despite playing with 13 men for a large part of it; it was outstanding.
“But they lack imagination; they resort to big runners going straight at you – there’s no subtlety.
“The Sharks were full of pure brutal physicality (against the Highlanders) and I don’t know if that will be enough against what is virtually an All Black forward pack.
“The Crusaders didn’t ask enough questions last time (the semi-finalists met); they were lured into a game they didn’t want to play and they paid for it ... they won’t be out for ‘revenge’; it’s more about righting the wrongs.”
Perhaps Marshall’s words will be viewed as a cheeky bait to get the Sharks to adjust their methods and be more expansive in Christchurch, but considering their major scrum and lineout supremacy over the Highlanders, Jake White is considered in South Africa highly unlikely to fiddle with his treasured “knockout rugby” brew on Saturday.
In ordinary season, where the Crusaders finished second overall, one point ahead of the Sharks, they registered 41 tries and conceded 36, whereas the Sharks notched 29 but leaked only 22.
So “Crusaders attack v Sharks defence” seems a reasonably likely theme this weekend ... *Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing