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VIDEO: How to 'fix' the Sharks

The Sharks, despite the star-studded nature of their roster, have had the most shambolic season in the United Rugby Championship – just one win in 11 starts.

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They have been rooted to the bottom of the standings and their most recent loss heightened the calls for dramatic action – despite a very successful campaign in Europe’s Challenge Cup, where they finished top of the standings.

The Boks Office crew – host Hanyani Shimange, along with Springbok legends Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger, as well as guest Robbie Fleck – pointed to the URC as an indicator of the state the Durban-based franchise finds itself in.

Their next three matches – URC home games against Ulster and Edinburgh, along with a Round of 16 Challenge Cup face-off with Zebre in the Shark Tank – could put a different spin on their season.

However, the Boks Office podcast crew felt some fundamental issues still need to be addressed.

Shimange, in asking the panel for possible solutions to the Sharks’ strifes, pointed to the quality of their roster.

This includes Springboks like Vincent Koch (injured), Ox Nché, Coenie Oosthuizen (injured), Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth, Jaden Hendrikse, Francois Hougaard (injured), Grant Williams, Lukhanyo Am, Francois Venter, Aphiwe Dyantyi and Makazole Mapimpi.

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Burger said when teams go through slumps like this, it is more than just coaching or the quality of the players.

“It is an issue of culture,” he said, adding: “How do you get that culture right?

“How does this side now identify with Plum, the way he wants to play and approach the game,” he said of head coach John Plumtree – who returned to Durban after a decade.

In his absence from the Shark Tank, he had stints at Ireland (assistant coach), Hurricanes (assistant and head coach), Japan (assistant) and the All Blacks as an assistant.

(WATCH as the Boks Office crew analyses the Sharks’ shambolic URC season….)

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“That is what all of us get measured by,” Burger added.

“If you play for a franchise or the Boks, that culture determines what is required of you on and off the field, to perform at your peak.

“Quite clearly that [culture] is lacking.”

Fleck said that is why the Stormers have been successful in the last couple of years – reaching two URC finals and winning it in the inaugural season.

“Dobbo [coach John Dobson] and the team have connected with the style of play, connected with the fans and they have a proper identity,” the 31-times capped Bok said.

“What are the Sharks standings for at the moment?” he asked, continuing: “Have they got a connection to their fans? Culturally, within the side, are they happy?

“It looks like it is a struggling environment.”

De Villiers said it was a case of ‘team versus individuals’ in the Sharks’ humbling 10-40 loss to the Lions at Ellis Park in their last outing.

“The Sharks have fantastic individuals,” the celebrated former Bok captain said.

“It is not a team. You don’t see that team environment.

“Again, we are not there [in the team]. We don’t know the environment.

“It is Plumtree as head coach. Neil [Powell] as Director of Rugby Eduard Coetzee [as CEO] are very involved in rugby stuff.

“You have to pinpoint all that stuff and say: ‘How do we get back on track?’

“You look at the Bok players that are there and how they perform.

“Something is lacking,” he added.

Fleck added that the owner, Marco V Masotti, is also a big personality.

Burger pointed out that a lot of ‘stuff’ is coming out about the problems in the team, but not a lot about how are they going to solve the issues to get them to play winning rugby.

“There are plans for a green stadium, a lot of other stuff and commercially they are very active,” the 86-times capped Bok legend said, adding: “What matters is your performance on the field – that comes first.”

Fleck pointed out that they have a strong brand off the field, but it is their brand on the field that may be lacking.

The Boks Office team was unified in their assessment that it is not a Sharks team that should be bottom of the URC standings.

Burger said the Sharks may just go all the way in the Challenge Cup.

“For the top players, it is hard to come back from the Boks – which is their happy place – to the Sharks, who have won one [URC[ game in 11.”

* This entire episode and much more are on RugbyPass TV. All you need to do is sign up for a free account on RugbyPass TV and watch the entire episode.

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