Sharks still lacking something

2011-04-26 14:07

Comment: Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town - I suggested before the start of the new-look Super Rugby season that regardless of who actually won it, the Sharks would be my tip as best-performing South African franchise.

GALLERY: Sporting siblings

GALLERY: Super Rugby Week 10

My belief was based primarily around the depth of their squad at forward, a vital element for a successful, elongated campaign (the abrasive Jean Deysel returning to contention from long-term injury is a mightily handy fresh device for them, for instance, as we head toward the run-in period).

Well, more than halfway into the regular-season programme, it has obviously been tempting to revise my theory, given that the Stormers continue to set the South African pace and have slightly confounded my expectations by building gradually on their renaissance of last season.

In a nutshell, the Stormers are a smart outfit who play to their strengths and are aware of their weaknesses. They are hard to beat, even if they seldom win terribly easily.

But I am stubbornly not going to downgrade my Sharks forecast, mostly because I still fancy that they have a kinder remaining fixture list -- and might pip their big coastal rivals to best SA finish even if they crash to them (the Stormers ought to be just about billed as favourites) in a top-of-conference meeting under lights at Newlands on Saturday.

For one thing, John Smit’s men still have another bye weekend ahead, and the guaranteed four bonus points that will bring, while the Stormers have now exhausted both theirs.

And the Capetonians must yet get their passports out of the drawer for a four-match overseas tour, including what suddenly shapes up as an especially formidable barrier in the form of the Blues in Auckland: they have leapfrogged the Crusaders to pole position on the New Zealand conference log.

So I’ll probably be sticking with my Sharks theory, whatever happens this weekend.

But I also do so without any special reason to trumpet their majesty at present, because doubts must remain, even after they earned a full-house victory over the Hurricanes on Saturday, about the title-seeking appetite of John Plumtree’s charges.

Maybe I was just having a glass-half-empty sort of day, but far from the “impressive” I saw it labelled as, I thought their latest win was a distinctly flattering one, against a ‘Canes side who look their weakest in years - still with some traditional, attacking oomph but quite woefully inept in terms of defensive organisation and tackling desire.

And frankly, the Sharks made heavy weather of downing them, when you bear in mind that they trailed at various stages and basically got their “win momentum” in the final quarter courtesy of that old South African get-off-the-hook favourite – the long-range intercept try, thanks to Lwazi Mvovo’s moment of opportunism and decisive turn of speed.

They were turned over too easily in the first half, with mass-ranked personnel often a little slow to the breakdown, even if the personally impressive Smit rightly said afterwards that they rectified this snag to a good extent in the noticeably more urgent second period.

Their lineout remains vulnerable, the front row selection dynamic ever-awkward and tough for Plumtree to manage, while the current midfield alliance of Meyer Bosman and long-in-the-tooth Stefan Terblanche has a slightly unconvincing, porous look about it, to my mind.

Watching games at Mr Price Kings Park, there always seem to be spookily “silent” periods where the Sharks go into a kind of listless, meandering mode and crowd enthusiasm becomes muted ... is there perhaps a lingering feeling among the local faithful that their beloved troops aren’t quite ready to land that elusive, desperately-desired Super Rugby title for the first time?

Be that as it may, there is a case for saying there can’t be too much wrong if the Sharks are occasionally struggling to better third gear yet winning nevertheless -- and also having fewer problems than the Stormers in landing four-try bonus points, it must be said.

Maybe the Sharks are holding something back and intend shrewdly timing their charge to perfection in this first-time Super Rugby “ultra-marathon”.

Certainly if they were to slightly upset the apple cart at Newlands, they would immediately be looking very healthily situated indeed to finish as conference winners, whatever their present list of warts ...


  • Anneleen - 2011-04-26 14:24

    Whatever happens in the future games, SHARKS will remain my team forever!!!!!

      maloorsports - 2011-04-26 15:50

      Nou praat jy!!

      Shazred - 2011-04-26 17:15

      Vwery well put.. Now and forever, they will always be number one in my eyes.... SHARKS RULE!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Gorilla - 2011-04-26 14:30

    One win and suddenly you'd swear that the trophy was going to Kings Park. One swallow does not make a summer.

      Grant - 2011-04-26 14:42

      I think you are confusing us with the Stormers who always 'win' the trophy at the beggining of the season!

      Sh@rks Fever - 2011-04-26 14:43

      Hey Mr Gorilla. Where does it say that after one win we think the trophy is going to Kings Park. I missed that. I see Rob says we played kak on Saturday but he still thinks the Sharks will end first in their conference because we have an easier finish than the Stormers. But not once does he say we will come close to lifting the trophy. Sorry, but I think you are misinterpreting the oke.

      watalife - 2011-04-26 14:50

      @Gorilla, cant agree more. The Canes are certainly not a great side this year and now the sardines have won the S15 by beating them on home soil.

      Gorilla - 2011-04-26 15:08

      To be honest, I think the team that has been playing the best rugby in SA at the moment is at the bottom of the log. They are Lions. The Sharks have now got the easier part of the competition in front of them, and I hope they do well. I don't agree with the fact that they have a great side.

      Dal2000 - 2011-04-26 15:25

      Well just shows how clueless you are then Gorilla. The Lions playing the best Rugby? Is that why they're losing mate???? Wurrrr durrrrr, yes it may look enthusiastic, but they're as good as vodacom cup.

  • Makutu - 2011-04-26 14:41

    I am a huge LWAZI MVOVO fan... I think the young guy must start at left wing for the Springboks. If Habana starts then we'll see what happens but I hope that Lwazi Mvovo does get given a chance to start at Left WING! Goodluck to the Sharks and the Stormers. My Blue Bulls are still taking a prolonged goodbye to their old toppies who are evidently costing them their season.

      Rob van den Heuvel - 2011-04-26 14:49

      Lwazi is a great finisher with huge potential. Habana is just not on form, has not been since his last season at The Bulls. I too would like to see Mvovo run on in the number 11 jersey.

      maloorsports - 2011-04-26 16:03

      I agree Makutu. Lwazi is eager and hungry for success. Also spare a thought for Odwa Ndungane. He has never let us down and always produces for the Sharks and Boks.

      The Patriot - 2011-04-27 14:05

      The man's a demon, gotta love him.

  • Salomon - 2011-04-26 15:03

    Why are you so obsessed with this minor team?

      ChrisG - 2011-04-26 16:22

      You mean the currie cup champions?

  • Flee - 2011-04-26 15:05

    Sharks still lacking something??? ........ TALENT Maybe??? LMAO.... Goooo STORMERS!!!

      Grant - 2011-04-26 15:19

      Hmm well at least its not trophies kind of like WP/Stormers are lacking!

      Jason - 2011-04-26 15:32

      Sharks are only 3 points behind Stormers on the log and didn't have to buy a "superstar" backline either. On top of that, the Stormers still have to travel. Stormers will be enjoying 2nd place soon...but they should be comfortable there - they are so used to it.

      Kaapie - 2011-04-26 16:21

      Definitely the centre pairing...

  • The Odd One Too - 2011-04-26 15:32

    The Sharks won the title in 2007. Steve Walsh stole it from them by accepting bribe money from that Neanderthal Matfield.

  • Raymond - 2011-04-26 15:35

    Stormers for life , will always shout for them !! but may have to shout at them at times !!

      maloorsports - 2011-04-26 16:17

      Totally agree Raymond. I'm a Shark supporter but I'm man enough to admit that the Stormers and WP have done a lot better in this season and last season than in the 3 years prior to that. Maybe shouting at them is starting to work.

  • Mike@CapeT - 2011-04-26 15:48

    Like Rob Houwing, I am also a little apprehensive about the Stormers 'second half' of the competition and just hope that there is no complacency about their build up to the Sharks game (and I am sure there isn't) and the Bulls game later on. I suspect that both encounters are going to be a lot tougher than the two away wins! The other slight worry has to be the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein. The Stormers will be under no illusion about the threat of the Crusaders home game but somehow, I think they will rise to the occasion. The 4 tour games are a tad easier than they might have been with the Blues game being perhaps the most difficult but, there again, the Stormers have a good history against them in this is certainly not the time to stumble! As Alistair Coetzee will undoubtedly tell his men - 'We will take one game at a time' - and next on the agenda is the Sharks!

  • Johan - 2011-04-26 15:50

    err yes, its called centers... they have none !!! no offense to Stefan and Meyer but that combination is not working!!

  • Rob Rabbit - 2011-04-26 15:53

    The Sharks are great, but I agree that the midfield is a huge headache - oh for Butch or Frans Steyn - but Strauli et all have blown those..

      Kaapie - 2011-04-26 16:22

      Rob anyone but Butch and the moody kid Steyn( Looks like he is always pmsing)

  • Anneleen - 2011-04-26 16:05

    Dankie "maloorsports"...ek ly aan "SHARK FEVER"!

  • FerretGee - 2011-04-26 16:21

    I read these musings from the sportswriters on News24 and the comments, both vitriolic and praising, in the comments columns almost daily. When the Stormers win, they are believed to have the trophy in their cabinet already, when the Sharks do it, the same applies. The reality is, is that there are at least 7 teams in the overall log who could challenge for the semi's as there are only 11 points separating team one from team seven. The Stormers still have their away leg to negotiate and if they are successful only then can they start claiming semi-final possibilities. The Sharks gained 10 points on the road which were worth their weight in gold. The Bulls need a miracle, and the other two SA teams are propping up the whole log and fighting for the wooden spoon. The other factor that we all forget is that at the semi-final stages, it's a lottery and at that point it's who plays best on the day and who gets on the right side of the referees! Saturdays game will be like a final and rightly so as the two best South African conference teams go into battle. But, let's none of us get ahead of ourselves, rugby is a funny old game and one bounce of the ball, one given away penalty or one minor indiscretion can change a teams fortunes in a spit second. Bring on Saturday!!

  • Merle - 2011-04-26 17:13

    We've just heard that Botes is injured and will not be available for selection for the Stormers game - okay Daniel in at #6 and Deysel on the bench - 55 or 60 minutes as an impact player. The rest are back, but I would give John Smit a second game at hooker and bring Bismarck on off the bench also at 60 minutes. I'm a bit worried about Stephan's form going downhill - maybe Jacobs is an option - he has shown good form every time he comes on as a substitute. Hargreaves in for Skeate, and swap Jannie with Van Staaden. GO SHARKS!

      The Patriot - 2011-04-27 14:13

      I think Stef's game at center isnt his forte'. Maybe another position would suit him better, but his ability, fitness and skill remain unquestionable. Dont think he's on a downward slope.

  • Carl Muller - 2011-04-26 17:14

    I do hope the Sharks will (except against the Bulls). Two hour only Sharks supporter club fan (except for one week). Bulls forever...

      MrMojoRising - 2011-04-27 11:13

      Hope the Sharks will what?

  • Johan Kruger - 2011-04-26 17:39

    I do not care how they do it. As a Stormer supporter, I wish to see the Stromers and another SA team, Sharks has the better chance, to play in the final. Just do it! Victory will be sweet to win the Sharks in the final!

  • Richard Prowse - 2011-04-26 20:25

    Lets talk after Saturday

  • pages:
  • 1