All Jaws, No Teeth

By Dick van Dyk

Sharks_vs_BrumbiesToo easy, thanks mate!

I used to think there were decent odds that a South African franchise would lift the Vodacom SupeRugby (here we go again) trophy this year, tipping my hat at those affable fellows from Durbs in the belief that they, The Sharks, were the team to beat.

They came so close last year, but fate dealt them a tough hand. Or at least that’s what everybody said when they went down to the Chiefs after virtually circumnavigating the globe twice in two weeks. Personally I blamed The Sharks for that loss. If they’d gotten their act together earlier in the Vodacom SupeRugby (OK. I’m counting again… I confess to actually wanting to see what the “lucrative” prize is that Vodacom is offering…) competition last year then they would have had a home-game advantage when it mattered most – in the final throws of the tournament.

When the men from KZN opened their book this year in Bloemfontein with a decisive win against the Cheetahs I felt sure that lessons had been learned and that The Sharks were on track to trounce anyone who even so much as glanced at the Vodacom SupeRugby trophy. Even that lacklustre bore-fest against the Stormers had me sure that if all else failed, The Sharks defence would hold up…

Evidently, no one told Jake White and his Brumbies that The Sharks were “favourites”. And after 80 agonising minutes on Saturday afternoon rugby pundits across the southern hemisphere must be betting on the wild horses from Down Under to take this year’s title. To say The Sharks were outclassed would be an understatement. They were trampled into a pathetic pulp.

All of which leads me to ask a few tough questions of the Durban outfit… Questions like: Is Keegan Daniel really captain material? Can John Plumtree actually win a trophy that counts? Is the best fetcher they can muster really Jaques Botes? When the hell are Willem Alberts and Bismarck du Plessis going to be fit? Is Patrick Lambie the only man in black and white who can actually play the game?

Sharks huddle v Brumbies 2013Look I know Bismarck isn’t here, but we’re here to play rugby guys.

I’ve never been convinced of Daniel’s leadership qualities. And it seems a little too coincidental to me that in his first week back as captain after injuring himself in a warm-up match The Sharks look like the third team from Palookaville. Not that Frans Steyn is the man for the black arm band either, but at least he actually engages his men on the field of play.

The Sharks have struggled to find a natural leader since John Smit migrated north. Even though they have one in their ranks in the form of Lambie, who does more to muster the rank and file than most. Everyone agrees that eventually Lambie will lead The Sharks, if not the Boks, but not yet… Why not? Strong captaincy is the key to success, and The Sharks don’t have a strong captain. So why not let the strongest player lead the way? And Lambie is by far their strongest player.

But strong leadership is all for nought if your coaching is up to kak. And I am of the feeling that Plumtree may have outlived his usefulness at King’s Park. Either that or the team he is coaching hasn’t cottoned on to the fact that it isn’t enough to play one game of champagne rugby per season.

And that’s the crux of it for me, and other South Africa pundits. The Sharks are more than capable of wiping the floor with any opposition, but instead opt for sticking their thumbs up their bums and engaging in their favourite pastime – comeback rugby – in which they wait for three or four tries from the opposing side in the first half before waking up and trying to beat them in the second. If Plumtree hasn’t whipped this tendency out of them by now, the chances are he never will.

Until The Sharks find a leader and a coach who can kick their collective arses into permanent top gear, all you have at King’s Park is a waste of incredible talent.

Go Brumbies.

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