Some would call it a nice position to be in, others a coach’s worst nightmare. Question is, how the hell does John Plumtree decide which of his Springbok hookers should start against the Lions this Saturday?
Bismarck du Plessis is the incumbent Bok hooker and, more importantly, has been Sharks first choice whenever he’s been available this season. He has emerged as a true great in the making, with his powerful scrummaging, bullocking runs in the loose and (most importantly) superb breakdown technique adding a different dimension to the Sharks pack whenever he plays. He is aggressive and wants to win at all costs. He also seems to bring out the best in his brother Jannie. His only real weakness is his sometimes wayward lineout throwing and his penchant for conceding silly penalties from time to time.
John Smit, on the other hand, is the most-capped Bok captain ever. His leadership and experience mean far more to the team than anything else he does on the field, although based on his showing last weekend, he’s in the form of his life. Possibly the strongest scrummaging hooker anywhere in the southern hemisphere, it’s his mastery of the basics of the position that sets Smit apart from his competitors. He may not be quite as dynamic as du Plessis, but he makes far fewer mistakes. His lineout work, in particular, is a clear differentiator over his younger rival.
The other issue, of course, is the captaincy. Does it make sense to start with Smit and not make him captain? Or would Johann Muller be only too pleased to be relieved of a mantle that, perhaps, doesn’t sit too comfortably on his quiet shoulders? In the interests of maintaining harmony in a settled, happy team, it might make sense to leave things as they are, with Smit on the bench. That would minimise the risk of upsetting both du Plessis and Muller.
But surely, knowing the value that Smit adds, both as a player and as a leader, it would be downright foolish NOT name him as starting hooker and captain? Can the Sharks really afford to hand the Lions possession at lineout time? And is Bismarck’s recent dip in form anything to do with Smit’s return to fitness? Tough decisions all round for the Sharks management, that’s for sure.
Some good news from the Sharks camp, though, is that lock Albert van den Berg’s chances of playing are improving by the day and he is now odds-on to be fit. Against the Lions, the Sharks would probably do well to start with Steven Sykes and Jean Deysel anyway, leaving Big Al and Keegan Daniel to make a second half impact as always.
It’s only really hooker where the really big decision still needs to be made.Tweet