Sharks hope to strike balance
Durban - There is a saying that defence wins game, but on the converse, you have to score more points than the opposition too, so getting the balance between effective defence and successful attack is of paramount importance.
All-out attack is fun to play and exciting to watch, but it can come at a cost.
If you lose focus and your defensive preparation is given secondary status, you may score six tries in a match, but then you may also just concede eight, reports Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick
And while much of the talk in pre-season has revolved around a desire to play attacking rugby, new defence coach Michael Horak has an important role to play in 2015.
Last year’s victorious team, the Waratahs, boasted the best attack AND defence, scoring the most points and conceding the least in the competition, and this model of top attack mixed with top defence is one that the Sharks would like to replicate.
Horak has enjoyed stints around the world, both as player and coach and represented England while playing for London Irish.
He also played Rugby League in Australia and was selected for the South Africa national rugby league team.
After stints of coaching at the Cheetahs and Kings, he arrived in Durban and admits that he is very happy with the quality of player he is dealing with and the energy and focus they’re showing.
"It’s an immensely proud bunch of people here at the Sharks, with some world-class players," he admits.
"It has been easy working with them and it’s just been about creating a common understanding and then just tweaking a few things here and there," he explains of his role.
"At the end of the day the quality of the players here is phenomenal and they have responded really well."
Explaining that the coaching staff are looking to build a strong defensive element that complements their attack, he says, "There is equal emphasis on our attack and defence.
"We want to play in the right areas of the field and become an attacking force, that’s what will bring fans back. But defence is just as important and we have been working really hard on that as well.”
SANZAR, in a desire to produce a better product for fans, have opted for ‘high intensity, high octane’ rugby during the upcoming season which obviously means teams needing to adapt, or fall behind.
"The main challenge is that you have to defend against teams generating quick ball, with time and space to attack.
"In the Northern Hemisphere, there is a lot more emphasis on the fact that the ball is wet, the grounds are heavier and so the passes are a bit slower.
"Here quick ball is everything, so you have to get the basics right and to be really good in terms of discipline to ensure you don’t give away penalties that put you under further pressure defensively."
Not only the fans have expectations for their team, but the players too. Both in general in terms of overall achievement, but also in all the little things they do.
"The thing that drives us all is the pressure we put on ourselves, so we would like to add to that and strive for perfection," he adds.
"Obviously the rules and the way referees blow the game changes every year, which has an impact on various aspects. But with these individuals here, it just requires a bit of guidance and creating a common understanding."