Sometimes we sit in the stands – or on our sofas – and wonder what the heck rugby players are trying to achieve on the pitch, and Sharks coach Jake White was among us at the weekend when his players succumbed to white line fever against the redoubtable Reds at Kings Park when they had yet to secure the win.
The Sharks had scored a lone try in their vulnerable 28-20 lead with about 15 minutes to go when they scorned kicks at goal that might have guaranteed the victory, and instead kicked for the corners to chase tries.
“I think the guys were guilty of miscounting how many tries we had in the bank,” White said with raised eyebrows. “And there was probably a case of us being used to chasing the bonus point in the other games. It just seemed to be the thing to do ...”
But it was not the right thing to do, and White was the first to suggest that the Sharks were naive in how they played out the game, especially considering the Reds had made a big comeback from 25-6 at half-time and sniffed an upset win.
“We learned a lesson in the final quarter,” White agreed. “We maybe got seduced by the crowd wanting us to finish the way we have been doing, and we can count ourselves fortunate that we made the (tactical) mistake (of opening up the game) having had the cushion of being ahead on the scoreboard. We had not planned to make it a “sevens” contest and should not have got ahead of ourselves.”
But White said he would not point fingers at the leadership on the field.
“The players lost a bit of composure, and that happens and you learn from it. We have strong leaders in the team and they are learning on the job. Bismarck (du Plessis) must do it his way and be comfortable that he gets the players behind him. He is not John Smit and I don’t want him to be. He must captain the way Bismarck wants to captain. Getting him to understand that is my part of my mentoring role as head of rugby.”
The Sharks play the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday. - The Star