Score Line

Lack of discipline pulling the Sharks’ teeth

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Lack of discipline not only robbed the Sharks Super Rugby franchise of much of its bite lately, it also exposed a disturbing pattern in their play this season.

Over the last two weeks Jean Deysel has become the third player, regarded as one of the kingpins in the team, to be suspended for several weeks because of foul play.

Deysel, one of the stand-in captains in the absence of regular captain Bismarck du Plessis, was slapped with a seven-week suspension by Sanzar for slamming his knee into the side of Matt Todd’s head at a breakdown during a match against the Crusaders.

He joins Du Plessis on the side line. Du Plessis is finding himself in a similar position for five weeks after also being found guilty of foul play two weeks earlier in a match against the Chiefs. Bismarck got a red card for kicking Chiefs’ eighth man, Michael Leitch, on the head.

Also keeping Deysel and his captain company on the sideline is fly half/centre Frans Steyn, suspended for five weeks after the same match against the Chiefs. His transgression being a so-called tip tackle on his direct opponent on the day, Chiefs’ fly half Aaron Cruden.

First consider the fact that Steyn was named in the franchise’s leadership group at the start of the season. At a critical point in the season with a local away game – against the sizzling hot Lions – and a home game against resurging Bulls, before leaving on their Australasian tour, three members of the ‘leadership group’ are side-lined for foul play.

Next, one should consider the fact that Steyn, since right from the start of the season, was clearly an accident waiting to happen. One is probably kind if one describes his defensive techniques as “careless”. Deysel was also suspended for three weeks last season for foul play.

And, with Patrick Lambie and stalwart Willem Alberts also sidelined by injury, the Sharks now find themselves in the position that they will have to find yet another player to fill the captaincy boots.

Leadership’s role

In the broader realm of leadership at the franchise it is also interesting to note that in the judgement on Deysel one of the mitigating factors taken into consideration were the “truly exceptional circumstances associated with the health of his immediate family which must bear on his state of mind, and go some way to explain his irrational actions”.

In his foreword to former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers’ autobiography, John Smit relates the story of how De Villiers sent him home during a Springbok tour when he discovered that Smit’s son was ill. It make a huge impact on him, Smit writes.

It would seem, however, that the lesson learned then is not applied in the management of the Sharks team.

In fact, instability in the management of the Sharks camp seems to have become the norm since Smit took over as CEO at the franchise.

In the middle of the 2013 season long-serving coach John Plumtree was shown the door. 

Then assistant coach Brendan Venter with his ‘feel-good’ approach in the Peter de Villiers mould, was replaced with Jake White and his very regimented approach. He left just three months later. He was replaced by Brad Macleod-Henderson, only to be replaced by Gary Gold two weeks before this year’s season started.

Gold, after the Deysel incident and the drubbing of the Sharks by the Crusaders, responded with the following string of clichés and platitudes:

  •  "We will fix it. I believe in these players, it is a great group of guys;
  • "We are just not playing well at the moment and nobody can deny that, but we are still in the hunt;
  • "It is not the end of the world, we are not in the bottom half of the table;
  • "We are just going to have to show some character;
  • "We are going to have to step up to the plate. It is as simple as that.”
  • About the red card: “There is no coaching of - or condoning - foul play. I just feel we need to control that red mist;
  • "We have to be better disciplined, we have to understand that you just can’t do those things on the rugby field;
  • "A good starting point is to get our urgency up with immediate affect;  
  • "But we also need perspective. This Crusaders team received a similar score at the hands of the Chiefs earlier in the season and pulled themselves together;  
  • "We have to tap into the character and experience of our senior players and we have to send a message out to our fans that we can get back on our feet; and
  • "We have a huge job on our hands.”


We would like to offer Smit, Gold and the rest of the Sharks management team, from the board down, a cliché of our own to contemplate: We think “there is something rotten in the state of Denmark”.

by Spectator

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