What a weekend for South African sport in general. Ernie Els wins the Open, South African cricket were quite literally subjugatingEngland, and the Sharks had reds for breakfast… and then some. The only let down was the luck-lustre performance of the Bulls.
The Sharks dominance over the Reds was emphatic. It was also helped by the injury and the bizarre move of Genia to flyhalf. The forwards lay a platform for the likes of McLeod (in my opinion the best SA scrumhalf currently) and Michalak to dictate matters. To single out players in that game would be an injustice to the team as a whole. But I’m doing it anyway.
Top of my list of outstanding players for the Sharks was JP Pietersen. He was immense throughout the game. He made a number of telling tackles, especially coming off his wing to catch the Reds man and ball and halt their attacking momentum. He was great on attack as well, even scoring a try. In the forwards everyone put up their hands. Daniel lead from the front and provided deft touches, the locks were industrious, Kankowski keeps playing his best rugby and Marcel Coetzee runs on cold fusion. But this platform was laid by the stellar work of Beast,Bismarckand Jannie. They were absolute powerhouses. To me an unsung hero for the Sharks all season has been Tim Whitehead. He doesn’t seem to miss a tackle, can spot a gap and has excellent distribution skills. Best buy the Sharks have made in some time.
In the Bulls game the entire team were their own worst enemies. The front row was shocking. How they are Boks is beyond me. Chiliboy can play, but in Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger they have mediocre (at best) props. Dean is wonderful in the loose but poor on scrumming form, the building block of any rugby team. Werner Kruger should never have been and should never ever again be included in any form of Springbok rugby. Some fault for the poor scrum performance should go to the locks. Juandre is excellent at lineouts and all round play but seems a bit light in the engine room. But that is what he is, more of a Matfield than a Bakkies and that is what the Bulls are missing at the moment and in Flip they don’t have that. I would have stuck with Steenkamp. The loose trio don’t seem to gel and once again when things get tough, Spies goes AWOL. Jacques Potgieter showed some spirit and fight but it seemed to be man alone. Behind a losing pack Hougaard’s inefficiencies are exposed. There is no doubting his talent but maybe he should stick to wing. Morné had another shocker… even kicking the ground when he tried some aimless kick. You can’t really blame the rest of the backline for a mediocre performance because their games are usually tied into the form of their inside men.
The problem I have with the Bulls rugby at the moment is this, when there kicking game fails, they have nothing to fall back on. It used to work so well for them but that was because they had a forward pack who dominated in every facet of the game.
Unlike the Bulls, the Sharks showed that they can adapt. When the Reds were camped on the Sharks line they changed style and voila, they got away form their line. And that is what will make the Shark a dangerous team against the Stormers.
There is an air of confidence in the black and white team. If I were a betting man I’d probably put my money on them to win the Newlands exchange… if they didn’t just have to a 22000 km round trip for the playoffs.