Robert du Preez’s decision to put his son ahead of the team’s ambitions may end up costing the Sharks a place in the Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs, writes JOHN GOLIATH.
The Sharks currently find themselves outside of the Super Rugby playoff positions following their rather tame effort against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires on Saturday night. The 34-17 defeat, combined with the Stormers’ win over the Sunwolves, has seen them drop down to ninth position on the combined standings.
Du Preez decided to give his son, Rob, another crack at the No 10 jersey, even though Curwin Bosch had played some top rugby in that position in the Sharks’ overseas tour, as well as in the home matches against the Lions and the Hurricanes.
The Sharks looked flat in Argentina, devoid of any spirit and cohesion. Some Durban scribes suggest it’s related to unhappiness in the team. If that is the case, has Du Preez lost the dressing room by favouring his kid over the well-being of the team? This split in the team’s fabric looks like it won’t be fixed with just a simple needle and thread.
The Durban outfit finish their round-robin campaign against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday afternoon, with the winner almost certain to progress to the knockout rounds. But a season that promised so much, is heading towards a rather ignominious end for the Sharks.
Of course, they can still beat the Stormers to defibrillate their ailing campaign. They will probably head to Newlands as favourites anyway, especially because the Stormers’ injury list is as long as coach Robbie Fleck’s arm. But how can a coach who – according to reports – doesn’t have the backing of all his players, guide his team past the Stormers?
It shouldn’t have come down to a do-or-die match for the Sharks. If anything, they should have been fighting for the South African conference title after starting off their campaign with five wins in their first seven matches.
But their fortunes changed when Rob du Preez’s form started to wane. Du Preez wasn’t good in the 51-17 hammering that the Sharks suffered at the hands of the Jaguares in Durban, while he had a shocker on defence – supposedly one of his strengths – in the defeat to the Reds a week later.
It seemed as if fatigue was catching up to Du Preez following non-stop rugby over the 18 months. After a successful Currie Cup campaign, Du Preez joined the Sale Sharks on loan during the off-season, and then came straight back into Super Rugby.
Bosch, who featured at fullback at the start of the campaign, finally got his chance to wear the No 10 jersey when the coach decided to drop his son for their first tour match against the Waratahs.
The Sharks showed some signs of life again in Australia, as the talented Bosch started to inject some much-needed pace and creativity in their attacking play. The Sharks beat the Aussie outfit, before playing to a 21-21 draw against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
But even though Bosch has been superb at flyhalf, he was moved to fullback in the second half of all those matches he played. Du Preez Snr replaced the starting No 15, Aphelele Fassi, in those matches where Bosch started, and broke the Sharks’ impetus in many of those matches.
Bosch has been the Sharks’ best player and he has been most influential at flyhalf. But unfortunately he hasn’t had a chance to play for 80 minutes in that position and to build some momentum.
Coach Du Preez has no option but to go to Newlands with Bosch at No 10, and maybe even give the fleet-footed flyhalf 80 minutes to try and rescue their season. It’s time for Du Preez to put the team ahead of his son.
Photo: Gerhard Du Raan/Samuel Shivambu (BackpagePix)