Let’s start by getting this off my chest. It’s utter bullshit to have to go through a five-week tour in the Super 14 with a squad of only 26 players. That’s only 4 guys outside of your matchday 22 and if anyone gets injured, it’s virtually impossible to get a replacement out in time to be of any use for the following game.
Looking at the predicament the Sharks are facing now, with two key forwards potentially out for Saturday’s game, we can clearly see the impact of this. The Sharks opted to go with a 15-11 split in their squad, with 4 props, 3 hookers, 3 locks, 4 loose forwards and one utility (AJ Venter) making up the 15 forwards. Assuming a 5-2 split on the bench, which the Sharks seem to favour these days, you then need 13 forwards in your matchday 22. Losing two guys on the eve of a match means than every single fit forward in your tour party needs to be in the 22.
Problem we have here is that we then end up with two hookers on the bench. Traditional wisdom dictates that a tour squad MUST have 3 hookers, which is a little bit of fiction that I really don’t understand. Should both Muller and Daniel be ruled out, regardless of who else we pick, we end up with only Jean Deysel to cover the entire second and back row. Our only options outside that are to pick Craig Burden as a loose forward replacement, or use a 4-3 split. Even the latter makes little sense, as it is most unusual to have two props, one hooker and one “utlilty” forward as your four forward replacements.
For a side that prides itself on the quality of forward play and the spectacular depth we boast in terms of impact options, this situation is frankly a nightmare. Furthermore, it’s just plain stupid that it has come about at all.
Should SARU really give a toss about the progress of SA teams on tour, they would have pushed for a 30-man tour group for tours of 4 weeks or longer, particularly given the logistics of trying to call up a replacement at short notice. In a tour group containing 16 forwards, assuming we had only brought two hookers along, we would have had Blignaut or Hargreaves available to come in as a locking option and could perhaps have brought the impressive young Justin Downey along to experience his first taste of super rugby.
Right now, we’re going to have to cobble together a makeshift team and just hope for the best.Tweet