Sharks captain and lock Ruan Botha is tackled during Friday's match against the Rebels, as hooker Akker van der Merwe looks on. Photo: EPA/TRACEY NEARMY

DURBAN - The Sharks were one of the South African teams tipped to be a dark horse for the Super Rugby title this year, but after six rounds they are fighting a rearguard action, and they still have the Blues in Auckland and the Hurricanes in Wellington ahead of them.

Let us not bluff ourselves, it is going to take something Herculean for the Sharks to beat these two New Zealand teams, starting with the Blues on Saturday, and then when they return to Durban, they immediately face the Bulls and Stormers in a fortnight of a derbies at King’s Park.

If you are a Sharks fan, your loyalty might be tested to the utmost over the next month. The fact is the Sharks need some players to step up and become heroes because right now nobody is doing the job, particularly up front.

In fact, I would say the backline is just about blameless in terms of attack. They are not getting the possession to ignite this highly talented backline. If this Sharks backline can run on to the ball at pace, the possibilities are exciting.

Outside centre Lukhanyo Am, the interchangeable back three of Lwazi Mvovo, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Curwin Bosch and Kobus van Wyk can, and will, score tries if they get quality possession.

The Sharks’ loose forwards are not entirely at fault, and it would seem the problem is that the Sharks do not have a tight five that is capable of taking the fight to the opposition.

There seems to be a lack of strong leadership across the board at the coal face up front.

I am not singling out Ruan Rotha as a poor captain or lock, not at all, but as a unit the tight five are not imposing themselves.

They have got to take the game to the enemy, get stuck in and allow the loose forwards to have a better shot at winning the rucks. I don’t see that happening at the moment.

One wonders if leaving an experienced leader in Keegan Daniel at home was a wise move.

It would seem the Sharks have a leadership problem in the pack, and somebody has to step up on Saturday and for the rest of the tour. Stephan Lewies is one such player, and The Beast must take a leading role.

Akker van der Merwe came to the Sharks from the Lions as a much-hyped player, and he will be the starting hooker now that Franco Marais has announced that he is leaving the Sharks for Gloucester after this competition. Let’s see the formidable Akker do his thing.

Jean-luc du Preez is another who must step us as a leader.

The Sharks’ pack is competitive, but it is not ­attacking opposition packs.

Think of the days of Mark Andrews and Steve Atherton smashing the living daylights out of the ­opposition.

The Sharks pack needs to get some serious fire in their bellies and as a unit take on the opposition.

There is no better place than New Zealand for players to forge their reputations.

The Sharks’ forwards have to step up at Eden Park on Saturday.

There is just too much talent at the back going under-utilised.

This match against the Blues is the Sharks’ third on tour. It is often the third week when the minds of the players begin to wander on a month-long tour.

But for the Sharks it is the week when the players need to stand up and be counted, and just maybe a few new heroes will be unearthed.

The Mercury

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