Rugby, more so than many other sports, is a team game, one where a team can only be successful if all facets of the game are working in tandem - and working better than their opponents' to boot.
However it would be folly to suggest that there are not a few key individuals in any squad, let alone Sale Sharks, who are uniquely important to the team's success due to their relative importance in key areas of the game, players whose individual performances a team's success hinge upon.
So who are those players for Sale Sharks, or more precisely: which member of Sale Sharks will be the most important in determining any success Sale have as a team, this coming 2014-15 season? Here I take a look at a few candidates.
The obvious choice, former All-Black Dan Braid has had perhaps the greatest impact on Sale Sharks of any player since the team rebranded under the 'Sharks' monkier over a decade ago.
After arriving in January of 2013, Braid was THE key catalyst that helped turn Sale's fortunes around after a dismal start to the 2012-13 campaign helping the side win six of their final eight Premiership games (and a 33-33 apiece draw with London Irish) and was soon thereafter promoted to the role of Captain for the 2013-14 season, where under his leadership Sale finished 6th.
Softly-spoken as a leader, choosing to lead by example instead of barking orders, Braid, even at 33, continues to excel in all aspects of the game and remains an incredibly dynamic players; particularly proficient at the breakdown and in securing turnovers but also has a nose for the try-line, especially at the back of Sale's system of rolling mauls (he had seven tries in all competitions last season).
After a fantastic season on the pitch for Sale last year, Braid's impact was clearly felt when he went down with a knee injury in late March that ruled him out for the rest of the season. Sale then went on to lose four of their last six games in all competitions without their Captain
However with the niggling injuries hopefully now resolved, Braid will clearly be one of Sale's most important players for this season, however it was clear how necessary the Sharks' captain has been since joining and will need to stay healthy if Sale want a repeat of last season's heroics.
Biases aside, Michael Paterson was arguably the best signing of any Aviva Premiership team last season after Steve Diamond snapped up the New Zealand-born forward from Cardiff Blues back in April 2013.
A spectacular season for Paterson followed; despite concerns from some that Paterson was not a second-rower in the mould that Diamond had envisioned him in, "Pato" instantly became a mainstay in the Sale team at 5, missing only one of Sale's 22 Premiership games whilst often playing a full 80 minutes at a time and being asked to cover, at different times, Openside Flanker and No.8.
Paterson is a workhorse all around the pitch but is particularly a force in both the loose and in the lineout and is a focal point of Sale's gameplan in each area. Last season, Paterson came second to only Leicester Tigers' Julian Salvi in "ackles Made with 220 to Salvi's 235 whilst dominating the Lineouts Won category with 92 - a league-wide high of any player (h/t to Opta Sports).
Recognition soon followed, and Paterson appeared in countless Team of the Seasons including BT Sports', Opta Sports', The Telegraph's and The Rugby Blog's. Paterson's rich vein of form was also rewarded with a call-up to the expanded England squad before the Summer Tour of New Zealand and he was picked as an injury replacement for England's tour match against the Crusaders.
If Paterson can replicate last season's form, and there really is no reason why a repeat can not be expected, Paterson will be able to give Dan Braid a close run for his money in regards to who is Sale's more influential player, especially once Pato's importance in the line-out as first receiver and in the scrum is factored in. But injury, a drop-in form or even further call-ups to the England squad could potentially derail Paterson's second season with Sale with a huge impact on Sale's on-field performance.
There is good reason to believe that whilst Danny Cipriani is perhaps not Sale's best or even most influential player, it is on his form that Sale's success is most dependent on.
This is partly because of his position as a Fly-Half, arguably the most important in rugby, Cipriani is expected to orchestrate Sale's attack, manage the field position with kicking and score points when called upon. But it is Cipriani's "yo-yoing" form since moving back to England from Melbourne in 2012 that may make him Sale's most important player this season.
At his best, Cipriani is a generational talent; quick, smart, an intuitive passer and kicker, with an game-breaking ability to produce sensational plays out of nothing and create opportunities for his teammates to feast on. At his worst, Cipriani can be lethargic, aimless with his kicking, overly confident with the risks he takes and uninterested defensively.
Since moving to Sale we've seen both the Jekyll and Hyde of Cipriani's style of rugby especially during his first season at the club in 2012-13. After a life-altering collision with a bus in Otley last year however, it appears Cipriani's life both on and off the pitch has taken a more grounded approach and that has been reflected in his game; last season Cipriani was simply a joy to watch, mixing all the game-changing talent and ability with a more reserved approach to field position, making smart decisions and making a positive impact defensively with some much-improved defensive work and tackling.
It is no exaggeration to say Sale's 6th placed finish last season had a huge amount to do with Cipriani's form but having seen both the good and the bad of his game since moving to the North-West, one wonders just how much of Sale's success rests upon Cipriani's shoulders.
Personally I feel this is a question that depends on a myriad of factors and one that is fairly subjective, not limited to which position or aspects of the game, we as fans value other others. For me, I think the high levels of consistency we have seen from both Dan Braid and Michael Paterson along with the importance of the Fly-Half position in Rugby Union means it is Danny Cipriani who will be Sale's most important player for this season but I accept that there will be many that disagree; therefore leave a comment below or tweet us @SharkTankRugby on Twi