Sharks slump: Are their Boks the problem?
STATISTICAL ANALYSIS: The Springbok-laden Sale Sharks team is desperate to get out of their slump and improve their play-off hopes.
Perhaps the problem could be found in the performances – or rather non-performance – of a number of their high-profile international recruits.
It has seen the Sharks drop from second to fourth on the standings – with Bristol and Wasps overtaking them, while Northampton Saints and Bath have closed the gap to just a point in the race for a top-four spot.
You can excuse the losses to the quality of the opposition – especially the high-flying, table-topping Chiefs.
However, there is a familiar thread through both defeats – the lack of impact some players have made.
Discipline, or lack of it, was certainly a major contributing factor against Exeter this past weekend.
Springboks Coenie Oosthuizen and Lodewyk de Jager, along with London Irish’s William Goodrick-Clarke, were the most penalised players in Round 15.
Oosthuizen and De Jager, with four penalties each, contributed nearly half of the team’s 18 penalties.
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Now add in the high number of missed tackles – three each by Jean-Luc du Preez and Armand van der Merwe, as well as Francois de Klerk and De Jager (two missed tackles each) and a clear picture begins to emerge.
Against Quins, when Sale conceded 16 penalties, the Boks also featured heavily in the negative columns – with De Klerk, Van der Merwe, De Jager, as well as the Du Preez twins Jean-Luc and Daniel featuring in the missed-tackles column.
Those are statistics that do not make for good reading, but Sale will be hoping their South African contingent soon regain their pre-COVID-19 form.
It certainly did not help that the #BLM saga exploded around their heads – despite Director of Rugby Steve Diamond’s public support, when he urged South Africa’s Minister for Sports, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa to focus on ‘his own job’.
Mthethwa has received loads of backlash after it was revealed that he had approached SA Rugby for ‘clarity’ over the failure of a host of players who failed to ‘take a knee’ in support of the #BLM movement before Premiership matches in England the previous weekend.
It could have resulted in a lack of focus on their core job – to help the Sharks quality for the play-offs.
However, there is no doubt the Sharks need their Springbok contingent to live up to their top billing.
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