In a four-part analysis, JON CARDINELLI unpacks the improvements and shortcomings of the South African franchises.
Many questioned coach Robert du Preez’s selection policy over the course of the 2019 season. And, in the aftermath, one has to ask why a team packed with so many Springbok stars failed to score tries and win big games.
Any team boasting the running and handling ability of Sbu Nkosi, Makazoli Mapimpi and Lukhanyo Am should be threatening the tryline more often. Any side with the power and offloading talents of Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez should be making more inroads.
But attack, as the stats confirm, was a huge problem.
SA TEAMS RANKING ATTACK
The side-to-side, multi-phase assault did not produce the desired results. As seen above, the Sharks ranked joint-second in the tournament for seven-plus phases.
They battled to break the line – as the ranking of 12th for linebreaks confirms – and were only better than the Stormers and Sunwolves for tries scored.
One could question the coach’s decision to back Rob du Preez Jnr at No 10 ahead of Curwin Bosch. The latter did offer more in terms of good attack and kicking options on the occasions where he was handed the flyhalf duties.
The overall approach and mindset proved ineffective and it wasn’t surprising to see the Sharks accumulating a disappointing three try-scoring bonus points – two of those in the first two rounds against the Sunwolves and Blues.
Defence was the Sharks’ strong suit. As many an opposition coach pointed out, the Sharks also had one of the strongest kicking games in the tournament with the likes of Louis Schreuder, Bosch and Am offering good options.
Only the Crusaders and Jaguares conceded fewer tries than the Sharks. Du Preez’s side ranked fifth for kicks from hand.
SA TEAMS RANKING DEFENCE, DISCIPLINE AND KICKING
In the end, a solid defence and kicking approach were not enough to earn them a top place in the South African conference and ultimately a home playoff.
They weren’t in the top eight going into the final round of the conference stage. They would not have progressed to the quarter-finals if not for a late try by Am against the Stormers at Newlands.
There needs to be a rest week between playoff matches to ensure that teams travelling from overseas have sufficient time to recover. That said, the Sharks only have themselves to blame for their log position and ultimately their playoff destiny.
In the end, the defence faltered in the quarter-final against the Brumbies. The Sharks missed 20 tackles (for a disappointing success rate of 80%) and conceded five tries.
Photo: EPA/LUKAS COCH