A lot of noise is made about the fact that we lack quality at flyhalf in SA. I reckon the New Zealanders are not all that far behind us when it comes to a dearth of depth at pivot.
Of the five SA franchises, only the Stormers boast a South African flyhalf that looks the part at Super Rugby level, in Peter Grant. The Sharks have Michalak (a Frenchman) and Steyn (a disaster at ten), while the Bulls’ Liefling obsession is costing them dearly this year. Jacques-Louis Potgieter at the Cheetahs looks like he may come right in time, but Conrad Barnard is hopeless. So too Louis Strydom for the Lions, while the journeyman Jaco van Schalkwyk is really a fullback being played at flyhalf. Even the Stormers have opted to go for international experience, with New Zealander Tony Brown their backup pivot.
With the departure of both Aaron Mauger and Luke Mcalister, things suddenly aren’t looking too rosy in New Zealand either. Dan Carter and Nick Evans are both class, with Stephen Brett a very capable understudy. Those three might be enough to see them through at test level, but I maintain that New Zealand doesn’t have the necessary depth at flyhalf to adequately cover five teams in the Super 14.
The Blues were fortunate to secure the services of Evans from the Highlanders. With him out, they have been forced to play Ice Toeava at pivot, a move that hardly utilises the hard-running centre’s talents to their fullest. Isa Nacewa (also currently out) is another who could probably do a job at 10, but looks far more comfortable in the last line of defence. The Highlanders were left with no experienced pivots; their early season hope Daniel Bowden has just been dropped as they continue to search for a suitable 10. The latest candidate is fullback James Wilson, who has already shown this season that he doesn’t have a boot worth mentioning.
The Hurricanes and Chiefs have a pair of journeymen in Jimmy Gopperth and Stephen Donald respectively. Both are quite experienced at this level, yet neither has gone on to develop into a player that could stand out consistently on the Super Rugby stage, much less at test level. Neither squad has many established options outside these two… the Canes would call on youngster Willie Ripia should Gopperth go down, while the Chiefs at least have Tasesa Lavea and Callum Bruce to provide some cover.
And now with both Carter and Brett injured, the Crusaders will need to bring Leon Macdonald in at pivot, or risk going out to their wider training group to find a flyhalf.
Small wonder the New Zealanders are looking at bringing back Queensland pivot Quade Cooper, who left New Zealand in his teens to make the Sunshine Coast his home.Tweet