The Sharks showed plenty of character to scrape a bonus-point win over a Scarlets team missing 19 first-choice players, but there should be bigger concerns over the team’s options at flyhalf, writes DYLAN JACK.
Truthfully, a 17-point gap and bonus-point win flattered the Sharks, who were the lesser team for 60 minutes against a Scarlets side without the likes of Leigh Halfpenny, Rhys Patchell, Johnny McNicholl and Jonathan Davies, among others, due to injuries and international call-ups.
Coach Sean Everitt admitted the Sharks were under pressure for long periods of the match and that the result could have been different if Scarlets were more clinical with their try-scoring opportunities in the first half.
That should be enough to give the Sharks a cold reality check over their current status as South Africa’s best-placed side in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.
Among the major problems the Sharks experienced was a lack of cohesion between the halfbacks and the rest of the attack. While both had decisive touches late in the game, neither Jaden Hendrikse nor Curwin Bosch had their best outings.
Hendrikse is still rediscovering his groove after the traumatic leg injury suffered during his second appearance for the Springboks last year. The 21-year-old’s no-look kick to set up Aphelele Fassi’s try was a moment of pure genius and showed that it’s just a matter of time before he gets back to his best.
However, Friday night’s game was another in a long line of inconsistent performances from Bosch. After spending most of the URC on the sidelines, due to a hip injury, Bosch has recently been brought back into the fold and given another opportunity to save his Sharks career, with Boeta Chamberlain dropping down to play in the Currie Cup.
Bosch is at his best when he is allowed to play from the pocket and pepper the opposition with his normally on-point kicking game. It’s what made him such an effective weapon when the Sharks came so close to winning the Currie Cup at Loftus Versfeld back in early 2021.
It was during that run that Bosch had a real chance to show his BMT and drive the Sharks to what would have been a rare title win at Fortress Loftus. However, when his team needed him most in the final, Bosch let them down as he missed five penalties and two drop-goal attempts. It has started to become a theme of Bosch’s game that if he isn’t kicking his goals, he doesn’t offer too much else.
The Sharks have evolved and need more from their starting flyhalf. Historically, the best playmakers at the Sharks – Henry Honiball and Butch James – have been players associated with a tough edge to their game, a fearlessness to play on the gainline and take the big hits from the defending pack. Unfortunately, that’s where Bosch is at his most uncomfortable.
The fact that Bosch and Chamberlain – a player who also tends to blow hot and cold – are considered the best two options at 10 is problematic for a team as ambitious the Sharks.
It is also somewhat ironic that while they rotate between those two, Sharks discard Manie Libbok has settled in brilliantly at the Stormers where he has formed an effective partnership with Damian Willemse and Warrick Gelant.
It would be harsh and completely unfair to blame all of the Sharks’ failings in their recent URC clash on Bosch alone. There was an overeagerness to run the ball from all angles which resulted in a high error rate that teams better than Scarlets would have punished them for. That suggests a gameplan error and the Sharks could have trusted their kicking game far more effectively in the opening exchanges.
However, the flyhalf position definitely requires further scrutiny as the Sharks look to build themselves into a team that can compete with Europe’s best.