Hi guys, today I want to look at a wonderful Sharks try in their match against the Highlanders. It was a completely unstructure try that happen thanks to a small mistake, little bit of luck, but mostly because of the fantastic alertness, decisions and small skills of the Sharks players.
Let us take a look!
This is the 4th phase after a Shark scrum. The interesting thing is that the scrum was almost exactly on that spot, so the Sharks was not making headway. The Highlanders defence is by no means in trouble after the phase play. In fact they actually moving forward with cohesion because Sharks was caught behind the advantage line. But one Highlander is making a mistake. Can you see?
The prop Lomax is getting involve unnecessarily at a ruck that is already won.
Sharks is not very organised because they was caught deep, so Schreuder hit the prop Schoeman for a tight carry to try set up some shape again. But Schoeman see that the link between the Highlander ruck defence and the line defence is broken… Lomax is back on his feet but have lost contact with 8th man Whitelock. There is space, and Schoeman is Elon Musk. He will go into it.
Now it start to get interesting. Because Schoeman cut inside, it mean Whitelock make a weak inside shoulder tackle. There is split seconds for the Shark support players to react. They must read the contact and make a decision.
Do they go in to clean? Seal? Latch? Run a line for a offload? The clues will be in who dominate the contact, and how the contact is developing.
Lewies see that Whitelock is the weaker party and that Schoeman can dictate. He also see that more space is available, so he decide to take a offload line early and call to Schoeman on his inside. You can see him shouting.
Schoeman is hit by another Highlander but show wonderful soft hands to put Lewies into the gap. Lewies make many meters and what is interesting to me in the picture above is that as he is tackled his first priority is to look for another offload.
The fact that he don’t decide to go to ground to place the ball is a tribute not only to his confidence in his skills but also to the Shark philosophy to keep the ball alive. Players do not do this if a coach preach safety first.
Lewies trust his skillset, and he trust that there will be a player on his shoulder.
Jean-Luc Du Preez is that player. Lewies execute a very difficult offload as he go to ground and Jean-Luc gather it beautifully with one hand to make more yards. Now it get interesting again…
As we see above, Jean-Luc realise that he don’t have support, so he go to ground. But he still have one option left before he go into ball protection mode. Enter Lukhanyo Am.
What is interesting is that Am is actually delaying himself. He don’t hurry to get there to seal or clean. If you watch the video you will actually see that he was sprinting but then he slow down. He can see that Jean-Luc is looking for a option to pop-pass. Am will time himself perfectly to get there only as Jean-Luc hit the deck and twist to pop the ball for him.
After a few more small offloads we get to this. Schoeman have carried again and as he is tackled he will be in peril of a poach. We can see the dangerous situation above.
But this is where awareness and rugby IQ coming into play. Who do you think will clean? It is the flank Vermeulen, who is almost the furthest away! He see the danger early and react instantly, rushing over to clean the jackal just as he want to take the ball. It is a small, critical moment.
Thanks to Vermeulen the Sharks have quick ball and that is what flyhalves want. Du Preez sum up the situation and see that he don’t have a lot of width outside him – only three players. He is faced with equal Highlanders numbers (two defenders outside of the frame) but he can see they want to be aggressive. So he pull back for a long pass as if to hit Nkosi or Esterhuizen.
At the last minute Du Preez pull the ball back and drop it onto his boot to put the grubber through. It is so delayed that the Landers buy it like a cheap bag of koeksisters at the traffic light. They have come up too flat.
Nkosi react immediately and bullet forward to chase the ball. What is also interesting is that Du Preez must kick the ball at a angle so that it also move away from Smith who is coming across as cover. It is such a good kick that we can forgive his police moustache.
Nkosi’s speed is as important as his reaction time. He burn Matt Faddes and then show excellent judgement and skill to dive forward and grab the ball to get it down on the grass before it go out.
From start to finish this was a wonderful passage of play. It was like some very quick punches by Mohammed Ali that the Highlanders just could not deal with.
It show us how important it is to have players who can dominate contact, and the options that give us. It show us how important skills training is, and how that unlock the confidence players have in their actions. We see how important alertness, anticipation and decision-making are and how skills add to the options that players can use in different situations. Finally we see how a more open philosophy allow players to harness that confidence and use these skills.
When it all come together, as we see above, it is blerrie hard to stop! Well done Sharks, and let us take some of this DNA of power and skill into the green jersey as well!
DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.