Rudderless Sharks swim in murky water without Springboks

The Sharks’ have had an inconsistent and injury-ridden start to the United Rugby Championship season, which culminated in a 35-0 loss to Cardiff on Sunday. Their fins need to turn around soon.
On paper, the Springbok-laden Sharks have one of the strongest squads in the United Rugby Championship (URC). However, their on-field performances have not reflected that strength. They currently languish in 12th position on the URC log – although they do have two matches in hand.
At the start of 2021 the Sharks announced that US consortium MVM Holdings had bought a majority share in the union. The deal provided a huge cash injection for the franchise which translated into the purchase of marquee players such as Springbok captain Siya Kolisi as well as Stormers and Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi.
The side had a relatively successful first URC season, ending the round-robin stage in fifth place before losing in the quarterfinal to Bulls owing to a late Chris Smith drop-goal.
Through player development and astute signings such as star Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth, the Sharks were expected to build on the momentum of their inaugural URC season.
They also reaffirmed their back division with the shrewd purchases of Bok centres Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Francois Venter, among others.
Lions duo Carlo Sadie and Vincent Tshituka also joined the Durban-based franchise to add depth to the forwards department.
Despite all the aforementioned investment and preparation for the 2022/23 URC season, the Sharks have fallen flat in all but one of their opening six matches of the season.
They have a 50% win record and are the lowest-ranked South African side on the URC table.
Slow start
The Sharks have only played one match with their full assortment of Springbok stars available – against Glasgow Warriors in round five, winning emphatically 40-12. That match and the scrappy victories over lowly sides have painted over the cracks of the underachieving Sharks.
Nevertheless, the triumph over Glasgow at Kings Park showcased their potential at full strength.
Etzebeth, as spectators have become so accustomed to, was colossal in every facet of play, while Makazole Mapimpi, Ox Nche, Kolisi and Mbonambi also displayed their international quality.
There was a clear gap in quality between the South African and Scottish outfits.
However, as soon as the aforementioned Springboks are unavailable, the Sharks become almost unrecognisable from the one that clobbered Glasgow Warriors.
In their opening match of the season, they struggled to an unconvincing, closely fought 42-37 victory over bottom-of-the-table ...