With all the talk in recent weeks on who is in and who is left out, I have to question one specific omission from Peter de Villiers’ group of chosen ones.
The Sharks have undergone a lot of changes this season which saw their captain, John Smit leave for Europe along with Butch James and Percy Montgomery and Bob Skinstad (retired).
If anyone thought these losses would not affect the Sharks in a major way I guess the Super 14 proved differently. Although the Sharks managed to reach the semi-final’s, they struggled the whole season to move from second to third gear. Arguably the Sharks only lived up to pre-season expectations once this year in their game against the Chiefs.
One guy in particular would have been under immense pressure this season, and that is their captain, Johan Muller.
I guess many might argue that the Sharks did not live up to expectation, but if one considers the implosion that occurred at the Bulls, eventual winners of last year Super 14, then the Sharks in comparison did exceptionally well – where both teams lost experienced players in vital positions.
Much of a team’s success, or lack thereof, is thanks to their leader – and if this is one criteria we can use, then Johan Muller did exceptionally well given the team’s loss in personnel to steer his side to a semi-final spot, the only South African team do make it that far.
It is therefore quite perplexing that Johan Muller was overlooked when Peter de Villiers announced his squad for the incoming tours.
South Africa has some great talent at lock no doubt, with Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha arguably the best in the business for the last couple of seasons. Add to this young exciting talents in the likes of Andries Bekker and it is an area we are okay in for now, but definitely not overstocked.
I am inclined to believe that the fact that the Matfield/Botha partnership was broken due to Victor moving to Europe has also put some pressure on the expertise we have in this area. Sure Matfield is back now, but he hardly played at lock in France for the last 6 months, not to mention that he is yet to play under the ELV’s which will be used in the Tri-Nations. Of course Bakkies Botha’s legal battle with the Bulls and effectively SA Rugby to be released to go to Europe does indicate that the lock supremacy we had in the last couple of years might be under threat.
In the case of getting young promising players into the system, one always have to rely on old warhorses to guide these youngsters, and Andries Bekker, although coming of a good Super 14 is a far cry off from international standards – for that he needs a lot more games and experience behind his name.
The line is very fine when you look to strike a balance to bring promising talent through, but retaining valuable experience – and ultimately that is up to the coach. I do believe however, he got it slightly wrong with Muller.
It simply does not make a lot of sense to me that you should drop a 28-year old player who is nearing his 100th first class cap, has 49 Super rugby caps and 22 test caps – who above all this not only captained his franchise and union side, but also the Springbok side in 2007.
Jake White proved what it means to have experienced guys in a team setup, and reading an article recently of the ex-Bok mental coach who said that one of the ingredients to beat the All Blacks at home (White never achieved this) was to have many, reliable and experienced leaders in your side, I find it a bit perplexing why Muller has been left in the cold.
I am all for rewarding great form, and definitely a supporter of the school of thought that ‘if you are good enough, you are old enough’ – but I also believe that this should apply to the other side of the spectrum too, that if you are old(er) and experienced and still good enough, you are young enough.
Maybe I am old school, but when I select a player I look at the total value that guy brings to the team – whether he is a youngster or an old statesman, and I am not convinced Andries Bekker brings more value to the Bok team than Johan Muller everything considered, and one flash Super 14 will not change that view.
I believe rugby, and rugby greatness is achieved by going through a schooling process and doing your apprenticeship first, before you are rewarded with national honours. Andries Bekker is no doubt the future of Springbok rugby, but we need the Johan Muller’s of this world if we want to remain the number 1 team in the world and beat the All Blacks at home this year.Tweet