Legendary Springbok Naas Botha says the Sharks’ lack of continuity at fly-half along with playing Ruan Pienaar out of position at No 10 may have contributed to their Super 14 demise.
“I don’t think the Sharks ever settled at flyhalf and that was one of the hiccups this season. I know Dick Muir’s hand was forced a bit because of (Frederic) Michalak’s injury and because Frans Steyn never really took total control at fly-half. But I still believe if that position was sorted out earlier, like Butch James did for the Sharks last year, then it would have helped.”
Craig Lewis writes in the Daily News that Botha added that he was extremely puzzled by the selection of Pienaar at fly-half.
“For so many years he has been a scrum-half; why would he suddenly be this brilliant fly-half? Try explain it to me and I’ll accept it. When I was playing I played nearly 30 years at fly-half and suddenly you want to tell me I would have been this great fullback. I’m sorry it doesn’t make sense to me.
“If from the first game he got moulded into the flyhalf position it’s a different ball game, but otherwise you are not going to get away with it and I think the Sharks learnt that.”
And where does Botha think the prodigiously talented Steyn should play?
“I think Steyn needs a little bit more room to manoeuvre at this stage in his career and I would think fullback is the best bet. He should really look at that. If the team is under pressure he can kick the ball 60 to 70 metres.”
Botha said he thought it had still been a “fantastic” Super 14 season for the Sharks though.
“I’m a real supporter of the way Dick (Muir) went through the season by placing emphasis on first winning your games before anything else. That is still the right attitude and your first priority should always be to win.”
Throughout his long and illustrious career, Botha was renowned for his incredible kicking ability as well as his astute tactical understanding of the game.
On Monday he shared some of that knowledge with numerous players from the Sharks Academy and surrounding clubs. He told them it was time to stop making excuses, to get in shape and to fully appreciate the privilege of playing competitive rugby. He then conducted a comprehensive kicking clinic.
At the moment the Sharks are enjoying a well-earned break after an arduous Super 14 campaign, but rest assured that soon-to-be coach John Plumtree is already mulling over what plans he should put in place ahead of the Currie Cup.
As Botha said (with tongue-in-cheek): “The Sharks need to win a trophy. They have had some fantastic tournaments without winning any and, like I saw on Sky news, Avram Grant (former Chelsea manager) has been fired after a number of near-wins were not deemed good enough.”
Meanwhile on the national scene, Springbok coach Peter de Villiers will be doing some pondering on Wednesday as he cuts his training squad from 47 to 30.
Botha said a number of Sharks were likely to come close to Bok squad selection but whether or not they would actually make the starting line-up was another story.
“The thinking of Peter de Villiers may be slightly different from that of Jake White and we must give him an opportunity to prove how he is thinking.”Tweet