Rugby writer Mike Greenaway gives three reasons why the Tafel Lager Griquas won’t find the Sharks napping at the Shark Tank this time around.
JUST over a month ago, Griquas continued their Currie Cup giant-slaying act of 2021 when they beat the Sharks 37-27 at Jonsson Kings Park thanks to incredible defence and clinical finishing, while the exact opposite had to be said for their hosts.
Now Griquas return to the scene of the crime on Saturday for a semi-final, but rugby writer Mike Greenaway gives three reasons why it will be a different result this time …
The Sharks lost to Griquas mostly because they could not wisely use a mountain of opportunities that came their way when the men from Kimberley played a portion of the first half with 13 men and a chunk of the second half with 12 men – they had five yellow cards.
The Sharks showed very little imagination with the ball as they pounded away at the solid wall of defence that was the Griquas tryline.
For such committed defenders, it was easy to stop the Sharks, who would have been much better served to vary the point of attack and using the width of the field, which would have given them an overlap at some point.
What has changed is that Curwin Bosch is no longer at flyhalf – he had an unfortunate outing that day – and the experienced Lionel Cronjé has been doing a good job at probing space and mixing up attacking options, be it grubbers, chips or skip passes. Bosch has only just resumed playing since that game because of Covid-19, and last week looked promising at fullback against Western Province.
New coaches have made an impact
Not long after that defeat, new assistant coaches Noel McNamara (attack) and John McFarland (defence) arrived and have worked hard at making a difference.
Of Irishman McNamara, head coach Sean Everitt said: “Noel has had an immediate impact on the team. He is a different voice with interesting new ideas.
He always has something exciting for the players, and the youngsters are responding to him.”
McFarland, a Northern Irishman – although he has lived in South Africa for a number of years, where he has worked with the Bulls and the Boks – is a world-renowned defence guru.
“John’s experience has been invaluable,” Everitt said. “We’ve conceded the least amount of points in the Currie Cup per game. John has done a wonderful job defensively for us.”
Once bitten, twice shy
Over the decades, Griquas have had a knack of knocking over the Sharks in Durban – Everitt’s first game in charge was a loss to them (July 2019) – so the Sharks have painfully learned to never underestimate a team that have no fear of travelling to the Tank.
Everitt has said his team were embarrassed at losing the last time, and it will be payback time on Saturday. It is also a semi-final, so the Sharks will have the added focus of having to win to advance to the final.
Given what is at stake for the Durban side, given that they are coming off a loss to Province, and given that they lost to Griquas in their last encounter at Kings Park, I cannot see a massively motivated Sharks team coming a cropper this time.