Jaded Sharks bereft of ideas

FILE PICTURE: DHL Stormers players after the win over the Sharks during the Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers at Growthpoint Kings Park on May 31, 2014 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

No pace-setter in a competition as prestigious as Super Rugby would condone a last-gasp defeat like the 21-19 one suffered by the Sharks against the Stormers at home at the weekend.

But perhaps Jake White’s men and even the South African Super Rugby challenge needed this.

With the Bulls coming unstuck against a spirited Lions combination and in the process all but extinguishing their hopes of sneaking into the play-offs, the Sharks will be South Africa’s only representatives in the knockout phase.

It’s the first time since the tournament’s revamp that this will be the case and it’s pretty much an indictment on our system, ranging from conditioning and injury management to game-plans.

From a Sharks perspective though, this reverse is a great reminder that their campaign – successful as it’s been – has also been imperfect.

Pragmatism has ruled under White and has led to a challenge similar to the Stormers’ in 2012, where solid defensive virtues and gritty counter-attacking carried them through.

Yet when they came across well-prepared opponents or, as was the case on Saturday night, were off their game, the consequences were pronounced.

The problem for the Sharks is that at the moment they don’t look remotely close to peaking.

Whereas the Crusaders and Waratahs are lurking ominously, White’s men looked jaded and shorn of ideas.

Charl McLeod’s late, game-changing hoof downfield which led to Jaco Taute’s winning drop- goal epitomised a side clinging dogmatically to their unambitious outlook.

Following the international break, their last two matches are both away from home, suddenly complicating their quest for a home semi – so crucial in this competition.

It’s an important consideration because current evidence suggests the Sharks won’t be able to make a dent in the play-offs if they can’t skip the wildcard phase.

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