Sharks assistant coach Brent Janse van Rensburg says the coaching team have adjusted their gameplan to suit the strengths of their squad this season. DYLAN JACK reports.
Following a massive turnover in players during the off-season, with 15 regulars heading for the exit and 17 new faces brought in, the Sharks have a fresh-looking squad going into the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
The likes of Tendai Mtawarira, Ruan Botha, Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez, Jacques Vermeulen and Philip van der Walt have been replaced by Ox Nche, Le Roux Roets, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Andisa Ntsila, James Venter and Henco Venter.
Given that the pack has a more mobile feel to it, it would be reasonable to expect the Sharks to have to alter their gameplan slightly to ensure the strengths of these players are used effectively.
Janse van Rensburg, who joined the Sharks as a forwards coach after an impressive stint with Griquas, says they have changed the way they will defend and attack according to their players.
‘We had a pretty strong pack at Griquas. I think whatever brand you want to play, certain parts of the game remain unchanged. You have got to get go-forward, you need to win your set piece, you need to be smart about how you run the ball depending on how the opposition defends against you, you need to stop their momentum – those things are unchanged.
‘We do have forwards that are quite mobile, which obviously complements our backline. But if you look at the way we are playing, it will be important for us to be very good in our transitional play. If you are moving the ball around and lose it, it is important that you handle the next transition. We worked on that transition between defence and attack quite a lot during our pre-season.
‘Essentially, it is going to come down to execution, no matter what the plan is. But we have made adjustments according to the players that we have. There is quite a lot of change to the way we do things defensively. That has been considering the players that we have, what suits their DNA and what we believe the long-term process will give as a good return on investment.
‘It will take some time to reach its potential, but if we can just hold on to the players and focus on the process of what we need to do to become consistent in our execution, hopefully we can lift the ceiling. If we keep doing the same thing all the time, the ceiling never gets lifted.’
The Sharks open their campaign against the Vodacom Bulls in Durban on Friday evening. The Bulls are expected to be boosted by the return of Springbok props Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka in their pack, after the duo recovered from their respective injuries.
‘I think all the teams will be a bit stronger than what they were on Marvel Day,’ Janse van Rensburg said. ‘If you look at the Bulls, Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka will come back this week. They will make some adjustments there. South African derbies are just different. The physicality of the game and handling of pressure moments. So, I expect quite an intense affair on Friday.
‘They will certainly want to get dominance and go-forward. They keep a structured attack from set-piece play. They also have a kicking game, putting a lot of kicks behind the defensive line and I think they will challenge us with that. The key thing for us is to handle the set piece, kicking game and to stop their momentum. You can’t allow them go-forward over the gainline. ‘
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