Why the Sharks are razor sharp

March 17, 2014
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BRENDAN VENTER discusses the Sharks’ success and asks: When are we going to see consequences for shocking refereeing performances?

While New Zealand franchises have traditionally proved Super Rugby powerhouses – most recently evidenced by the Chiefs winning back-to-back titles – the leaders of the opposing conferences are staking a strong claim this season.

If we examine the mechanics of the Sharks’ and Waratahs’ makeup, to my mind it appears that both have found an ideal balance in terms of ball-carriers, distributors, mobility and a solid set-piece.

Granted, all Super Rugby coaches are aware of the value that carriers, cleaners and distributors offer. However, what currently separates the above sides from the chasing pack, and the Durban-based side from their South African counterparts, is principally their players’ ability to multi-task and fulfil more than their expected role within the side.

For example, normally a scrumhalf is only ever seen as a distributor. However, the teams currently occupying first and second spot on the overall log have turned the conventional role of a No 9 on its head. While Cobus Reinach and Nick Phipps are more than able distributors, the pair offer an added outlet on attack owing to their abrasive ball-carrying and game-breaking ability.

In terms of ball-carrying threats, from one to fifteen the Sharks boast an embarrassment of riches. And as far as their backline is concerned, I believe they possess the perfect 9-10-12 axis. Their scrumhalf and flyhalf, while ball-carrying threats, can play for territory. Meanwhile, at inside centre they possess a player who is both a devastating ball-runner and an equally accomplished distributor.

At this point, however, I would like to stress that being an effective ball-carrier is sometimes less about bulk and speed and more about timing and knowing instinctively when to run a particular line.

With the exception of the Sharks, it’s not necessarily just the ball-carrier concept but rather a ball-in-hand threat which South African sides are primarily lacking at present.

While the Bulls must be credited for scoring their first four-try bonus point of this season against the Blues, along with the Stormers, the general perception remains that both sides remain one-dimensional and largely toothless on attack.

When examining the Cape side, for instance, I don’t draw the conclusion that their attacking shape is poor but rather that the same attack pattern is run by a number of teams. Thus, we can see that an air of predictability and a lack of variation on offence can undermine a side’s attacking endeavour.

To offer a practical example, a couple years back I conducted a study for Saracens whereby I compared and contrasted the attacks of the All Blacks, Leinster, Harlequins and Clermont Auvergne. Subsequently, I analysed the tries scored in an attempt to discover a common denominator.

In terms of tactics, there were various points of reference from which I drew. For instance, I noted whether the sides were playing more off nine or ten on offence, whether they employed inside ball or outside ball and the quickness thereof. I also examined whether the teams were attacking from the middle or side of the field and if players were offloading prior to contact.

In terms of conclusion reached, while there were a few commonalities, what most struck me from the study was that all four sides adopted different styles of attacking play.

There’s no question that it’s become ever more challenging to attack effectively in the modern game – the dice is now heavily loaded in the defensive side’s favour.

As a result, more tries are scored owing to moments of individual brilliance and an opponent’s unforced errors – as evidenced in the Sharks-Lions match – than well-worked training ground moves.

In closing, my rugby rant of the week is aimed at Rohan Hoffmann and his assistant referees who oversaw the Crusaders-Stormers clash. I find it shocking that so much negative and illegal off-the-ball play was allowed.

And with reference to the final play of the game, the Crusaders created a turnover; Colin Slade kicked the ball one yard from his own dead-ball line, the whole team moved forward and were subsequently all offside… It was indisputably a stonewall penalty for the Stormers.

When are we going to see consequences for shocking refereeing performances?

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9 Comments

  1. avatar Jacques(Bunny) says:
    March 17th, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    Why the Cape Mob do not get this man to help the team nobody will know.

    Nick said it as decent kicking, defence and attack will take you far but if you lack in one you are in trouble

  2. avatar Pokkel says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 10:53 am

    I was disappointed when Brendon Venter left the Sharks. Venter’s tactics in the 2013 CC final was brilliant. It would have been nice if he could have stayed at the Sharks as an external advisor. The Sharks seem rejuvenated in the post Plumtree era and a change at the Stormers I think will also do them the world of good.

  3. avatar Boertjie says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    @Pokkel:

    Lives in the Strand, practising dentist.
    WP should employ him, but I think the current
    mob sees him as a threat.
    Peter Principle could be at stake.
    Or maybe he does not feel up to all the racism
    and rascist comments that goes with the job in
    the Cape.

  4. avatar Aldo says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Cannot wait for Friday evening, Sharks vs Bulls is going to be great to watch, the Sharks are firm favourites and rightly so, but the Bulls seem rejuveninated with a more mature Jacques Louis Potgieter really performing a lot better than I’ve ever seen him and Deon Stegmann adding a spark to the loosetrio.

    Hoping for the performance against the Blues to continue into this game,

  5. avatar Boertjie says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    @Aldo:

    Plus Dewald Potgieter, back from Japan.

  6. avatar Aldo says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Yes, but not sure if he will feature yet, I know he is available for selection. Hope he starts at 8 if he does start, and hope it doesnt mean we drop Vleis Engelbraght fromt the matchday 22.

  7. avatar Pokkel says:
    March 18th, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    @Aldo:

    I must say as a Shark I’m nervous about the Bulls game. Amazing the difference a more balanced loose trio, a flyhalf that can execute the gameplan and the calmness of Matfield can make.

    Totally different side that the Sharks played in the first round but if the Sharks want to prove that they are real contenders they should beat the Bulls.

  8. avatar Americano says:
    March 19th, 2014 at 8:26 am

    Aldo always has the inside info on the Dark Menace that is Zee Bulls.
    I’m always impressed by the cheery disposition he maintains in this forum despite all the time he spends with his malevolent Bulls inside sources.

    I am disappointed Mr Venter doesn’t lend his expertise to the Fun-n-Gun Cheetahs.
    At least there he would feel appreciated & know he’s doing the Lord’s work.

  9. avatar Aldo says:
    March 19th, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Hahahahaha Americano, got to love your comments on the Bulls, they allways make me smile.

    Maybe it is because I know that for all your mentioning of the dark menace, you would love nothing more than for the Cheetahs to be like the Bulls. :soek:

    Brendon Venter would be an amasing asset to any team and it is a pity he isnt used more. Maybe it is his strong personality, people fear a clashing of wills when the other person’s will is really strong. Let’s hope that some of our superrugby coaches manage to get over their ego and involve him. Might be difficult in the beginning, but any team he assists would carry the fruits of his work.

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