Monday, April 13, 2015

Sharks paying the price of player power

Player power appears to have rebounded on the struggling Sharks in Super Rugby this year.

South African journalist Mark Keohane said the departure of former Springboks coach Jake White after only one season with the club was the result of players wanting him out.

Under White the Sharks had won the South African Conference, won two games in New Zealand and three on their Australasian tour and included a first win over the Crusaders in Christchurch.

They were beaten by the Crusaders in the semi-finals. During the 2014 season they conceded 22 tries. But in 2015 they conceded that many in only eight games.

However, the players said he was too much of a disciplinarian who demanded the players report at 8.30 each day for work.

It was reported that there was also a clash in the coaching support given to White by Sharks chief executive and former Springbok captain John Smit. White wasn't prepared to work with Brad MacLeod-Henderson and Paul Anthony who had less than a year of professional coaching experience between them.

White believed the Sharks, with the quality of their squad, their budget and the strength of their brand, should have performed better in the competition and believed only a change of culture would change the results, Keohane said.

After White's departure the franchise's Currie Cup team suffered a 50-point thrashing in the semi-finals but they were retained and joined by Gary Gold just before the start of the Super Rugby season after he had completed a coaching commitment with a Japanese team.

Keohane said: "Smit, Gold and the players don't agree that the Sharks are a squad in crisis. It's all smiles within the group in Durban and the leadership has been dismissive of critique around the coaching appointments and player recruitment."

Meanwhile White, coaching Montpellier in France, has seen his side in with a chance of making the play-offs. His key weapons? Discipline and defence.

Who will win out in the end? At the moment the Sharks are ninth on the ladder, and fourth of the South African sides with one of the worst disciplinary records in the competition.

Perhaps White was right.

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