• Sharks can’t just rely on structure

    Ollie le Roux says the Sharks need to trust their instincts in their quest to overcome the Crusaders in Christchurch, writes BRENTON CHELIN.

    As the Sharks smashed the Highlanders into submission on Saturday, it became apparent that while their game plan has proven enough to get them this far in the competition, it may not be enough to take them to the final on 2 August. On the surface their low-risk, high-intensity game is perfectly suited for play-off rugby, but against a higher quality of opposition it has its shortcomings. The Sharks managed a victory over their semi-final opponents earlier this season while utilising similar tactics, but it's fair to assume that come Saturday the Crusaders won't be as wasteful as they were on that particular day.

    Speaking to SARugbymag.co.za, former Sharks prop Ollie le Roux echoed this sentiment.

    'The Sharks have relied on their physicality to dominate teams, forcing turnovers and capitalising on the opposition's mistakes. But when you come up against the top sides, you need a little bit more,' said Le Roux.

    'It looked to me during the first 60 minutes [against the Highlanders] the Sharks were a little bit overcoached and inhibited. It was only after they trusted their natural ability and stopped worrying about pleasing the coach that they got the better of the Highlanders. I know Jake [White] likes the structure, but the trick is to get the balance right between sticking to the game plan and allowing players to express themselves on the field of play.'

    The victory over the Highlanders was built on the back of a dominant scrum, with the Du Plessis brothers and newcomer Thomas du Toit proving a formidable proposition up front.

    'Their performance against the Highlanders was one of the most dominating performances that I've ever seen. Thomas du Toit is a big, strong boy and he has brought a lot of weight to their pack, giving Jannie a foundation to scrum off.

    'I'm really looking forward to the battle this weekend. Both sides should hold their own. It's not about scrumming the guy in the first scrum. You need to keep the pressure up throughout the match so that in the last five or 10 minutes you can dominate the game. The Crusaders are a smart side, they've got plenty of experience up front so I think they'll be up to the challenge.'

    Having never won a play-off match in New Zealand, the Sharks have been given little chance of upsetting the odds in Christchurch. It is a position they have found themselves in already this season, not only against the Crusaders but also against the Blues, who were unbeaten at home prior to their meeting with the Sharks. Despite all the pre-match talk surrounding favourites and underdogs, Le Roux isn't too fussed.

    'I don't buy into this underdog tag. The bottom line is there are going to be nearly 15 Springboks on the field against 15 All Blacks. This is as close as you can get to a Test match. Once you get out onto the field it means nothing. If you start believing you're the underdog, you're in trouble.'

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    Photo: Sabelo Mngoma/BackpagePix