The Sharks seemingly hit rock bottom in Parma, Italy on Friday when they suffered an embarrassing 12-10 defeat to United Rugby Championship whipping boys Zebre.
The start of coach John Plumtree’s second tenure at the Durban-based side has been disastrous with the team suffering four losses in the URC and being rock bottom on the log.
The low that the Sharks find themselves in can, however, prove to be a catalyst for a brilliant season.
Sport is similar to life in terms of ups and downs. When you experience setbacks and disappointments, the point where the Sharks find themselves right now, you get an opportunity to evaluate where you have gone wrong and thus can start a comeback or get onto the right path.
Plumtree and Co return home from their overseas tour with their heads hanging low in disappointment, but they have a chance to put things into perspective and implement a way forward for the group.
It’s a blessing in disguise that the Sharks have gone through these losses and lows; they perhaps now fully grasp that depending so much on their international players is not sustainable as they will not always be there during the season.
Boosted by Boks
On paper, the Sharks are a strong side, especially when the Rugby World Cup-winning Springboks, including Eben Etzebeth, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, Grant Williams, Jaden Hendrikse, and Vincent Koch are all available and playing.
However, when these players are not around, the team look disjointed, with no structural cohesion, character and leadership. It would appear that the Sharks’ Achilles heel is their heavy dependency on the Boks, and they need to find a way to build a team that’s able to survive without them.
In their quest to bounce back, the Sharks coaching staff must integrate the Boks and establish a team culture that’s not centred around them.
Teams like Leinster under Leo Cullen have shown how to build a well-oiled machine that’s not dependent on internationals. With their Irish players in the mix, they get better, but they can win without them.
That’s something Plumtree will have to figure out, and once that’s sorted out, the Sharks should reach the Promised Land and achieve the success for which they yearn.