RUGBY NEWS - The Sharks’ win over the Sunwolves was enough to give them some confidence ahead of a four-match tour of Australasia, but how far they need to travel before they can be considered the finished article might have been touched on afterwards by the opposition coach, Jamie Joseph.
The Sharks are now off the mark in the competition after their first win, but on the evidence of the first few games of the new season, the current coach, Robert du Preez, faces an uphill battle in his quest to break down a defensive, safety first mindset that was ushered in over a period of years following the departure of John Plumtree.
It would be unfair to suggest that Du Preez took over an adventurous team and turned it into a conservative one. The Sharks have been playing percentage rugby since the end of 2013. Du Preez has spoken about his desire to bring through a multi-phase approach. But while Du Preez was pleased with tries scored against the Sunwolves off multi-phase attack, Joseph gave an honest assessment afterwards that could have been seen as a chilling warning to the hosts.
“For the Sharks, having a battling Brumbies side as your first tour match is a gift from the rugby heavens, one they must cash in on, because it is only going to get tougher,” said Joseph, a former All Black who tasted Super Rugby success as a coach with the Highlanders in 2015.
That it will get tougher in the short-term, with matches against Rebels, Blues and Hurricanes to follow on tour, goes without saying. Joseph might well have been taking a longer-term view though, for even on a day when the Sharks scored 50 points there was an aspect of their game that raises concerns about the challenges that lie ahead not just during their tour, but beyond that.
In a nutshell, while the Sharks have arguably some of the most dangerous South African wings on their books, and in Lukhanyo Am and Andre Esterhuizen a potentially lethal midfield, their game is still too forward based.