Sharks pack has had its wake-up call
There was a feeling that the Sharks had a lethal backline that would make the most of whatever scraps came their way, especially turnover possession, but that should the forwards be outmuscled, it would be difficult for the Sharks to win. That came to pass in Wellington on Saturday where, surprisingly, the Hurricanes forwards got on top in the set pieces. A surprise because historically the Canes are not known for dominating up front, but dominate they did, with the Sharks’ scrum back-pedalling and no less than six lineouts lost on the Sharks’ throw.
Sharks prop Juan Schoeman was penalised four times at scrum time and the Sharks team 12 times in total, only a slight improvement on the worrying total of 15 penalties against the Highlanders. Six penalties went against the Sharks in the opening quarter and that made it difficult for them to establish momentum and a favourable field position. The Sharks also conceded a whopping 21 turnovers (to the 13 of the Hurricanes).
So with all that possession gifted to the home team, it is little wonder that the Hurricanes won 38-22. Those are the negatives, but I feel they are outweighed by the positives and there is no reason for Sharks fans to get jittery. There is so much talent in this team that the Sharks can only come good in the long run, and consistently so.
Firstly, we have to remember that the Sharks are getting to grips with a new way of playing after having lost so much grunt up front. The Du Preez twins, Jean-Luc and Dan, alone are a massive loss of physicality and ball-carrying options. Coenie Oosthuizen, Akker van der Merwe, Ruan Botha and Philip van der Walt were no slouches either. The Sharks’ new forwards coach Brent Janse van Rensburg did wonders with the Griquas forwards, and over time he will rebuild the Sharks pack to the point that they supply adequate possession to a backline that is shaping up to be the most dangerous in Super Rugby.
The Sharks’ pack has had its wake-up call and they will be better against the Rebels this week, while the return of Thomas du Toit at tighthead will make a difference. One thing Van Rensburg has to sort out this week is the failing lineout - you are going to struggle to win games when securing only 57 percent of your lineouts.
Perhaps coach Sean Everitt will look at bulking up his second row - the towering youngster Le Roux Roets made a noticeable difference in the second half in replacing Ruben van Heerden on Saturday. The 24-year-old former Pumas and Waratahs lock is pushing 140kgs and the Sharks’ starting pack is short on physicality.
If there is to be an unenforced change to the backs, it would be at scrumhalf. Sanele Nohamba’s extended cameo at flyhalf in replacing injured Boeta Chamberlain showcased what a special player he is.
He is new to Super Rugby and was playing out of position, yet played with composure and skill.
The 21-year-old came on at halftime against the Highlanders for Louis Schreuder, and had there been no injury to Chamberlain it would have been the same against the Hurricanes.
Everitt said after the Bulls game in round one that he is not going to rush Nohamba into the starting line-up, but the youngster continues to build a commanding case each time he plays.