Gary Gold says the Sharks have to protect possession better, while improving their execution and decision-making in order to become more effective with ball in hand, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
This Saturday the Sharks are set to come up against a Lions side that has forged their reputation on playing an attractive style of rugby, and the Durban-based side are fully aware that they are set to face a stern test on defence at Kings Park.
However, the Sharks are equally aware of the need for them to begin to offer more with ball in hand after spending far too much time without possession over the first few rounds of the Super Rugby competition.
And while the coastal side have certainly impressed with their character and cohesion on defence, Gold said there were some minor, but significant, adjustments that were required in order for the Sharks to pose more threats on attack.
‘Rugby is a simple game, but the margins are very small at this level. We might want to play a ball-in-hand game, but there can also be areas and times when you can play too much rugby, so all it’s about finding the right balance, making better decisions and then executing well … I know what our intentions are, and how we want to play, but if we kick ball away that we shouldn’t have kicked away, or if we’ve lost ball because we can’t build phases, then you have to ask: is the execution the problem or the plan? So, it’s very much about execution.’
The Sharks are still handily placed after a start to the season that has seen them win three games, draw another and lose just the one. However, it’s clear that they are striving for more.
‘We want to keep on working on our attack,’ Gold admits. ‘This Saturday we have to do the business against a very good Lions team that will ask a lot of questions of us with ball in hand, and we have to be ready for that, but we also want to create a threat of our own. We learned from the Crusaders [game against the Lions] that when you do keep ball in hand there will be opportunities that present themselves.’
Gold added that the Sharks had certainly created no shortage of opportunities, but had simply failed to make the most of them at times when they had decent possession and position.
‘After five games, we’ve had 77 opportunities from turnovers from the halfway line in towards the opposition territory. We’ve also had some 70 lineouts. So we have had enough opportunities, and we’ve had a fair amount of ball, but it’s just about looking after possession better.’
Just two points separate the Sharks and Lions in the Africa 2 conference heading into this weekend's clash, and Gold acknowledged that games against opposition in the same conference were of the utmost importance.
‘There is no doubt how big this game is. The Lions play a brand of rugby that is exciting to watch, it’s quite similar to the New Zealand and Argentinian teams, while to a degree, the Stormers also play a similar game to that. This week we have put real time and attention into elements of our game that aren’t up to scratch. The fact is you can’t win rugby games if you don’t have the ball, and one of the things we want to do is make the most of the possession we have. So that means not kicking the ball away aimlessly, and to starting building phases and pressure. We have shown glimpses this season that we can play a good brand of rugby, and that’s what we continue to aspire to do.’
Photo: Shaun Roy/Gallo Images