So guys, we’ve won the Currie Cup. Let’s start doing a little bit of forward planning towards our next goal… winning the 2009 Super 14!
If there’s one absolutely great thing that John Plumtree has brought to the Sharks team in the latter stages of the Currie Cup, it’s continuity of selection. It’s absolutely vital in terms of the Super 14 that we maintain this approach as far as possible, particularly in the backline. I am a great believer in specialistion, which is why my ideal Sharks squad for the 2009 Super 14 has (at least) a primary and a secondary player in each position on the field. In going through these names, I’ll highlight where I feel we lack depth.
Loosehead Prop: Beast is the man in possession. Number two is Deon Carstens, although I see his role as specialist impact prop. Burra Mtetwa is the third in line, while Robbie Harris (who will be back in Durbs soon) and Pat Cilliers provide backup.
Hooker: Management of the two top hookers in the country is going to be Plumtree’s biggest challenge. I think we can expect that Bismarck du Plessis and John Smit will alternate in this position. I would definitely go with Smit to start every match, as he’ll presumably be the squad captain. This would entail using Smit as a tighthead in those games where Bismarck is chosen as the starting hooker. Despite taking a step or two backwards in this year’s Currie Cup, Craig Burden provides a strong third option.
Tighthead Prop: Given that John Smit will start at least some games in this position, Jannie du Plessis will be the other first-choice tighthead. Number 3 is a position where an element of rotation can be accommodated, as it’s a position that places huge physical demands on a player. Pat Cilliers and Robbie Harris will provide adequate backup to Smit and du Plessis.
Number 4 Lock: Steven Sykes is first choice. He has shown in the latter stages of the Currie Cup that he can make the step up against top opposition and should start every game. Joe Snyman must surely be his deputy, after a strong NPC campaign with the Hawke’s Bay Magpies. Albert van den Berg would be my choice for impact lock, able to cover either 4 or 5 off the bench.
Number 5 Lock: Johann Muller is first choice, with the bigger, tougher Al Hargreaves providing the backup. Joe has a huge job to do next season as he will provide leadership to the team when Smit is not on the field. Again, Al van den Berg will always be the bench lock.
Open-side Flanker: Jacques Botes as first choice, with Keegan Daniel as his backup. Daniel will always be the loose forward on the bench. Skollie Ndlovu is probably just that little bit too small to be effective at this level, meaning it’ll be a big step up for young Warren Whiteley if further cover is required here. There’s definitely a procurement opportunity at flanker.
Blind-side Flanker: Jean Deysel all the way. Backup here remains a big problem and if the Sharks don’t manage to procure decent backup, we’ll be left backing the young Justin Downey or Mike Rhodes, or else going back to players such as Nik Blignaut, who have failed at this level before.
Number 8: It’s Ryan Kanko, boys. Again, the worrying thing here is that his backup comes in the form of Jean Deysel and Keegan Daniel, both of whom have other jobs to do in the loose forwards. Rhodes again comes up as an option here, as does Adriaan Theisinger, although throwing a 19-year-old straight into the Super 14 cauldron is not always a good idea. This really does again highlight the Sharks lack of experience at loose forward, outside of the established trio.
Scrumhalf: Can I go out on a limb here? Let’s assume, just for a moment, that Ruan Pienaar really enjoys his time at flyhalf on the EOYT and decides to settle there. That leaves us with Rory Kockott and Charl Mcleod as first and second choice respectively. Pienaar can, of course, move back to 9 in a real emergency, or the precocious Ross Cronjé could be thrown into the deep end.
Flyhalf: Again, this all depends on Ruan Pienaar. If he accepts the first-choice flyhalf berth, with Len Olivier as his understudy, I’d say we’re in great shape. Lionel Cornelius, Adrian Jacobs, Frans Steyn and Riaan Swanepoel provide adequate cover, if needed. If Pienaar decides he wants to only play scrumhalf, then we need to find a Super 14 quality flyhalf urgently.
Left Wing: JP Pietersen first choice, Wesley Bodmer is his backup. Lwavi Mvovo and Henno Mentz provide “utility wing cover” in the squad, but there’s probably room for one more winger of established pedigree.
Inside Centre: This must be Frans Steyn’s preferred position next year. Let him start every match at 12. Riaan Swanepoel is his understudy, with Lionel Cornelius and Andries Strauss providing cover in the wider squad.
Outside Centre : Here I’d propose a horses for courses approach, with Adrian Jacobs and Waylon Murray each used in situations which will highlight their particular strengths. The highly-rated young Luzuko Vulindlu will be third in line.
Right Wing: Odwa Ndungane as first choice, with Chris Jordaan as backup. Again, outside of Mentz and Mvovo, there’s not too much backup.
Fullback: Stefan Terblanche will continue as first-choice fullback in what will surely be his swansong season. Unless you move one of the first-choice wingers to full-back, though, there really isn’t any good backup here, so fullback is another area where the Sharks need to do some intelligent procurement and fast.Tweet