There is still one issue which still has me believing the Sharks will fail in their quest for Super 14 glory.
No matter how I try I simply cannot shake the issue in my assessment and analysis of the Sharks squad.
Enough has been said about all that counts in favour of the Durban franchise to achieve Super 14 success, and there is plenty and it is all valid, but there is one issue, arguably the most important aspect of any team in which I believe they have made a mistake, and that is in the appointment of their captain Johann Muller.
By now after reading some of my columns most will know that I rate Muller quite a bit as a player. At times last year when Bakkies Botha went into a lull I believed Muller was more deserved to be included in the Boks than even Bakkies was, let alone Andries Bekker.
But given the dynamics of this squad, the competition itself and who they have available in the Sharks team as a leader, selecting Muller in the role of captain might just be the difference of eventually winning the trophy they got so close to in the past, or being the bridesmaids yet again.
In order to understand this you need to comprehend the importance of a captain to a team. I have been saying for years that rugby supporters, and also coaches, underestimate the importance of the captain in the team.
We all know the basics to look for when employing a captain. Things like ‘leading from the front’, being ‘a great motivator’ and good ‘communicator’ are all basic elements of becoming or being a good captain. But there is a hell of a lot more to it.
In addition to those basic requirements coaches will also need to consider how tactically proficient his captain is, or how easily and quickly he can assess situations on the field and apply changes in tactics if necessary.
How proficient is he as a decision maker and is he decisive and respected enough to instil his views and decisions onto his team mates quickly enough, efficiently enough and at the right time?
How does he handle pressure, a bad decision, a bad referee?
How is he accepted by both senior and junior players? How does he control and enforce leadership structures underneath him and can he manage this effectively?
How respected is he with the opposition, their captain and coach, and most importantly, referee’s?
And of course, is he the best guy for the job?
A rugby team is made up of 22 individuals, with different personalities, backgrounds and change control systems which has to be managed effectively if you are to get the best out of them – it is a skill you cannot coach. When I coached I have seen the best team on paper with a rudderless leader being smacked by a less talented team with a great leader.
It is true that a coach will need to select a captain to which he can communicate effectively and trust because he is the guy that needs to buy into the game plan first, and secondly take over for the coach once on the field.
But the other side of the coin is that the wrong choice in captain can destroy a coach, but a coach will very seldom destroy a captain. This then comes down to a simple equation that the coach needs to select the best guy for the job first and foremost, and as time goes on work on his relationship with this player.
I also coached by the philosophy of picking my captain first, and then picking the team and leadership structures around him.
I can go back to last Saturday when Jean de Villiers left the field injured to illustrate just how important a captain is and the influence he has on a team.
Is Johann Muller a bad captain?
Not at all, but he is no-where in the league of John Smit, and I believe that will cost the Sharks.Tweet