RICHARD FERGUSON writes the Sharks’ season has been one of extreme highs, with hints of excitement and too much frustration.
This frustration was most evident when they lost to the Stormers in Cape Town this weekend, a match that most expected them to win, yet they were never really in it.
In the week building up to the match, the favourites tag was thrown around, and although it is very amusing when the Stormers start stating how the Sharks should run away with a match because of where they are sitting on the log, the Sharks do seem to fall by the wayside more often than not when they are indeed favourites.
So what is it that the Sharks are not getting right, especially when looking at the amount of talent they have and settled nature of the players and especially the coach. There does not seem to be any undue pressure on the team to win a trophy, neither does Plumtree’s job rely on him bringing the goods home. So it seems it may be a lack of motivation from not only the players, but also coming from the top.
Motivation is a funny thing. We have seen flyhalf Pat Lambie’s intention of playing for the Springboks influence his game, going from a stand out attacking flyhalf to being just another kicking robot. The rest of the experienced Springboks within the Sharks group may also be sitting with one eye on the bigger picture, that being running out in the Green and Gold.
I have no problem with a player aiming to represent his country, but when it affects his play for his province or franchise, that honour should not become reality. I am not for one moment saying the players are holding back, but there must be something wrong with all the Springboks playing way beneath how we know they can.
Looking at the likes of Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis, undoubtedly the first choice Springbok props, have shown absolutely nothing this season that should warrant a call up to those higher honours. Beast’s scrumming has gone down the drain and his general play, which was what fans loved about him, being able to yell ‘beast’ as he runs over players, has become a little dance he does before he falls to the ground. Jannie has done no better, being owned by almost every loosehead he has faced this season. Also, he does not seem to be able to play more than 50 minutes.
I can continue calling out every Springbok in the team, and can probably write a 1000 word essay on the goings on with Frans Steyn, but I don’t want any suicides on my watch, so I will conclude by saying that these players, which are highly paid professionals, are being outplayed by younger, less experienced guys who have the hunger to succeed, whereas the current crop of big names only have a hunger for the Green and Gold.
Maybe the time has come for some of these big name players to be dropped to the bench, forcing them to think about their play and making them realise that they are not indispensable. It is as a result of this indispensable feeling among players that Sharks supporters are feeling dispensable.
By Richard Ferguson