Sydney: It’s not necessarily the most attractive style of play, but Rebels coach Tony McGahan believes the Sharks are refining a gameplan that is synonymous with “finals rugby”.
Having watched his side succumb to the Sharks’ effective method of strangulation and suppression last Friday, an exasperated McGahan admitted the Durban side were an extremely tough team to break down.
“They have a finals rugby formula, and that might get up a few people’s noses in the competition, but when it comes to the finals, the Sharks will know they have a strong set-piece, they can exit from their area, they have a strong defensive line, and they have enough in attack to get themselves out of trouble, as we saw from that try (scored by JP Pietersen) from turnover ball. You can see the confidence, clarity and clear direction that the Sharks have.”
McGahan said he recognised the influence Sharks director of rugby Jake White was having in this regard.
“The thing Jake does very well, and it was evident at the Brumbies, is that he gives a team a clear identity and a really clear approach about what they’re going to do, and how they’re going to do it. Then they go out and execute it every week, and generally get better and better as the season unfolds. The Brumbies definitely did that (when White was their coach), but the real thing is that there is a very clear message from one person, and everyone is on the same page.”
The Sharks’ win, coupled with a loss for the Brumbies on Saturday, has ensured the Durbanites once again enjoy a five-point buffer at the top of the Super Rugby log.
It’s an ideal position to be in as they prepare for Saturday’s clash against none other than the Brumbies, with the Sharks having now settled in Coogee, Sydney, where they will train this week before heading to Canberra on Friday.
The big loss over the weekend was the tour-ending injury suffered by Marcell Coetzee, with Jacques Botes joining the team yesterday.
And despite the victorious start to the tour, the visitors will be aware that a far more accurate display on attack and defence will be needed to challenge the second-placed Brumbies in the hostile environment of Canberra Stadium.
McGahan acknowledged the difficulty associated with maintaining your levels of performance week-in and week-out over the six months of Super Rugby.
“It’s such a tough competition, a lot depends on the draw. It’s very hard to maintain your momentum the whole way through. The Sharks have been on a tremendous run, and to continue such a run over such a long competition, I don’t think that’s sustainable. We’ve seen that any team can beat any other. The Sharks are an experienced group, and they haven’t got to number one without having some really good qualities.” - The Star