robdylan

Saluting the replacements


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super 14 on 6 Apr 2009 at 11:51
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You know, If you’d told me a few months ago that the Sharks could lose Jean Deysel, Ruan Pienaar and JP Pietersen and STILL beat the Hurricanes comfortably, I’d have said you were completely delusional.

The Sharks team that won the Currie Cup last year, at full strength, was a hell of an outfit. Certainly, the starting 15 boasted huge skill and experience, while the bench featured no fewer than four capped internationals (John Smit, Deon Carstens, Albert van den Berg and Waylon Murray), together with equally impressive names such as Keegan Daniel, Rory Kockott and Brad Barritt. There was plenty of depth and a lot of continuity – especially during the amazing 10-game unbeaten run that took the team to the title.

Going into the opening round of this year’s Super 14, though, the picture looked slightly different – let’s be honest, in fact it looked a fair bit bleaker. Barritt and Fred Michalak were gone and Waylon Murray was injured, effectively decimating the backline replacement options. Ruan Pienaar was pressed into service at flyhalf, bringing rookie Ross Cronjé straight up from the under 19 ranks onto the Super 14 bench. Riaan Swanepoel seemed a logical replacement for Barritt, while the completely untested Luzuko “Bazooka” Vulindlu was called upon to deputise for Murray as the outside back replacement. Amongst the forwards, the picture was slightly better, with only van den Berg ruled out for the initial stages. Alistair Hargreaves was the man identified to fill the void.

John Plumtree started off doing what any sensible coach would, given a completely untested bench. He opted to use his starting 15, together with the few experienced replacements, as much as possible. It was a frustrating time for the youngsters on the bench, though, as they collected match jeryey after match jersey with nary a grass-stain between them. The perils of the approach were all to visible in the last half-hour against the Lions – a whole slew of the youngsters ended up on the park in one go and destroyed the rhythm of the team, costing the Sharks vital bonus-point in the process. The cautious approach was not to be an option for long though, as first Deysel, then Hargreaves and then Pienaar went down with serious injuries on tour.

Deysel’s loss looked the potentially most serious, as there was no obvious replacement for his bulk and fire in the extended squad. Keegan Daniel stepped up manfully, though, and proved his versatility in adapting to yet another unfamiliar role. Hargreaves’s season-ending ankle injury, somewhat fortunately, coincided with van den Berg’s return and the forwards have only grown stronger as the campaign progresses. Having five internationals to call on in the front row, coupled with a pair of incredibly hard-working tight locks in Joe Muller and Steven Sykes has helped, although one can’t help but feel that Deysel’s presence is going to be immense when he returns in 3 weeks’ time.

It’s amongst the backs, though, that the real miracle has occurred, as first playmaker Ruan Pienaar and then try-scoring machine JP Pietersen were ruled out. After a very shaky start, Frans Steyn has started to show just a touch of class in the flyhalf jersey. The real star, though, has been Riaan Swanepoel who has looked the part right from the moment he first came onto the field against the Reds. The youngster exudes calm and maturity – very much in the way that Brad Barritt used to – and has brought an aspect of tigerish defence to the Sharks midfield. Still struggling to get going on attack, he has nevertheless done incredibly well.

Vulindlu has just been pure class throughout and his man of the match exploits when thrust into the limelight against the Hurricanes last week just underline what I’ve been saying ever since I first heard about this guy two years ago. He’s a star in the making and will go on to be a legend in the black and white. Every time he’s come onto the field, he has been the epitome of what a winger should be: a combination of pace, aggression in the tackle and a super high work-rate. And have you seen that step? Simply amazing to behold.

The real key here is the “team first” ethos that the Sharks have built. It’s always about the team and never about the performance of the individual. Everyone knows what their role is and everyone supports one another. It must be so much easier for a youngster to step up and join an environment like that, knowing that the calm heads around him will be there to guide him and help him when he slips up. The contrast to the culture of blame and recrimination that seems to exist within other franchises is patently obvious.

Even the Vodacom Cup players that have been forced to make the step up – I’m thinking specifically about Chris Jordaan, Monty Dumond and Charl McLeod, have slotted in brilliantly when required. This team is a well-oiled machine, all right. What’s more, expect Pienaar, Deysel and Pietersen to be back fit and fighting for their places as the Sharks come out of the bye round. Just in time for a serious assault as the competition reached its business end.



44 Comments

  • Yeah, Baby , Yeah…I’m overjoyed at how well the replacements have done, a testament to the Team Spirit in the Sharks team :cool:

  • Comment 1, posted at 06.04.09 11:59:35 by Pokkel Reply
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  • “The real key here is the “team first” ethos that the Sharks have built. It’s always about the team and never about the performance of the individual.”

    Could someone tell Frans Steyn that? :grin:

    Anyone know when Pienaar and Deysel will be back? A great game this weekend for both to get back to form quickly. HAHAHA

  • Comment 2, posted at 06.04.09 12:56:49 by deanoelsch Reply

    deanoelschVodacom Cup player
     
  • @deanoelsch (Comment 2) : sorry dude… both will only be back AFTER the bye… that’s two more games without them

  • Comment 3, posted at 06.04.09 13:04:57 by robdylan Reply
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  • Great stuff Rob – agree fully.

    I think Swanepoel can bet even better than neef Brad, and Vulindlu looks exciting, though I still need to be convinced he has the pace for wing.

    Gonna be good times with him, Swanepoel and Murray fighting for the outside back spot…

  • Comment 4, posted at 06.04.09 13:29:34 by Big Fish Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 4) : well, you now that Zuks is actually an outside centre by trade.

    Apparently Rassie tried to lure him to the Cape in the off-season with promises of guaranteed Super 14 gametime. Plonker.

    You can’t take the Zulus away from Natal.

  • Comment 5, posted at 06.04.09 13:37:31 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 5) :

    Ha ha ha …I doubt that he’s Zulu dude…
    …and where did the “Bazooka” come from… sounds cool though…

    Back to the article :
    If we pull this off – it’s really one to celebrate. :smile:
    Not only were were hit by the injuries at the crucial stage (before/during the tour)…but the injuries just happened to target the exact positions we labelled as untouchable. I’m sure if we could spare any players from injury…the first name was going to be Ruan, then maybe Kockott…and then Wolla.

    It’s just fantastic how we have coped without these key players…and how the youngsters have just slotted into the gaps like seasoned campaigners. Take a bow Swannie, Zuks and Chris…and the rest of the bubbling talent…

  • Comment 6, posted at 06.04.09 13:46:40 by blackshark Reply

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  • @robdylan (Comment 5) :
    @blackshark (Comment 6) :

    Agree, I think he is an Eastern Cape dude. When Andy Capistagno did the MOM presentation he mentioned that he was a DHS old boy. When asked about influences in his rugby career Zuks made no mention of any of his Sharks coaches or his coach at DHS but only of his coaching received at Graeme College, Grahamstown.

  • Comment 7, posted at 06.04.09 13:58:24 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 7) :

    And of his idol… Matt Giteau…

  • Comment 8, posted at 06.04.09 14:10:34 by bryce_in_oz Reply

    bryce_in_ozCurrie Cup player
     
  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 8) :
    Yeah, Capistagno thought that was quiete “interesting”.
    I think Gits has many covert SA fans.

  • Comment 9, posted at 06.04.09 14:24:09 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 7) : I read an article that made it sound like he was a Zulu…

    Let me see what I can find :)

  • Comment 10, posted at 06.04.09 14:26:35 by robdylan Reply
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  • @deanoelsch (Comment 2) : and rory and ryan. :roll:

  • Comment 11, posted at 06.04.09 14:31:00 by try time Reply

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  • http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=6&click_id=18&art_id=vn20090404094209734C540757

  • Comment 12, posted at 06.04.09 14:37:01 by robdylan Reply
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  • I think the replacements is doing so well. bacause its always much easier steppin into a calm, confident team..I somehow doubt if it would have been the case a few years ago though…BUT – well done then to Plum and the team, for making it easy on the newcomers.. :grin:

  • Comment 13, posted at 06.04.09 14:46:49 by Prof. Ice Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 12) :
    Now properly confused, no mention there of Graeme College in Grahamstown and yet Im sure that was what he said. Maybe he did a post matric year there.

    Did anyone notice haw Zuks seemed more overjoyed with Frans Steyns try than with his own effort.

  • Comment 14, posted at 06.04.09 14:47:43 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • anyone found online video highlights of the game? I’m looking…

  • Comment 15, posted at 06.04.09 14:55:28 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 14) : He did mentionn Graeme College. Heard him say it as well.

  • Comment 16, posted at 06.04.09 14:55:56 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

    JustPlainSHARKCurrie Cup player
     
  • The very reason for the newbies to fit in to the setup is because of the ‘team ethos’. Its not a murse responsibility in the sense of “I (emphasis on the I) HAVE TO….” No weight on their shoulders (ok, not huge like).

  • Comment 17, posted at 06.04.09 15:01:29 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

    JustPlainSHARKCurrie Cup player
     
  • @robdylan (Comment 15) : http://www.supersport.co.za/video/default.aspx?id=5689

  • Comment 18, posted at 06.04.09 15:05:34 by Charlie Reply

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  • @robdylan (Comment 12) :

    :???: Mmhh…his name and surname are Xhosa…but then again my brother has a Xhosa name…and our surname falls on both sides …so people get confused…

    Anyway – whatever the case…he’s A SHARK !!!

  • Comment 19, posted at 06.04.09 15:06:33 by blackshark Reply

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  • @blackshark (Comment 19) :
    Agreed.
    Anyway we will know that rugby development is really happening in KZN when Eastern Cape schools start poaching locals.

  • Comment 20, posted at 06.04.09 15:14:08 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • Hey you have to thank the ref hey!

    Just joking, vok that Canes team have some big units running around and tet2s all over. :shock:

    Love to see Steyn now making that 10 jersey his own, he has been outstanding and my Gimmie Jordaan also did his bit with that last try.

  • Comment 21, posted at 06.04.09 15:20:45 by PaarlBok Reply

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  • @blackshark (Comment 19) :

    We are family
    I got all my sisters (Sharkies) with me
    We are family
    Get up ev’rybody and sing

    :-)

  • Comment 22, posted at 06.04.09 15:22:02 by Prof. Ice Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 15) : ok – found some… busy watching now

  • Comment 23, posted at 06.04.09 15:55:22 by robdylan Reply
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  • ah man! JB grassed a certain try. That’s not like him at all

  • Comment 24, posted at 06.04.09 15:59:07 by robdylan Reply
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  • Sykes is a BEAST

  • Comment 25, posted at 06.04.09 16:00:11 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Prof. Ice (Comment 22) : nanananana nana :mrgreen:

  • Comment 26, posted at 06.04.09 16:01:13 by rekinek Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 23) : can’t u record the game :?:

  • Comment 27, posted at 06.04.09 16:05:53 by rekinek Reply
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  • love it… Rory making Nonu look like a prize plonker.

    @rekinek (Comment 27) : can’t record something what isn’t on TV :(

  • Comment 28, posted at 06.04.09 16:17:26 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 28) : :oops: :mrgreen:

  • Comment 29, posted at 06.04.09 16:24:22 by rekinek Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 29) : I’m learning to be hell of inventive, that’s for sure :)

  • Comment 30, posted at 06.04.09 16:31:01 by robdylan Reply
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  • @blackshark (Comment 19) : the sharksworld site :mrgreen: is .coza and it isn’t coza or zooloo.

  • Comment 31, posted at 06.04.09 16:41:19 by try time Reply

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  • @try time (Comment 31) : oh my word… that was truly awful. You know that, right? :)

  • Comment 32, posted at 06.04.09 17:02:04 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 32) : damn right it was. pretty much the quality of all the other sa teams. :lol:

  • Comment 33, posted at 06.04.09 17:09:25 by try time Reply

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  • @try time (Comment 33) : touché

  • Comment 34, posted at 06.04.09 17:15:31 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 30) : i’m usually pvr-ing all the games. I tend to miss quite a bit during the first watching, either munching, drinking, arguing, stressing :mrgreen:

  • Comment 35, posted at 06.04.09 17:24:14 by rekinek Reply
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  • Go Sharkies!!

  • Comment 36, posted at 06.04.09 17:41:05 by JarsonX (tantric shark) Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 35) : that sounds like me, actually… well, the swearing part, anyway.

  • Comment 37, posted at 06.04.09 17:41:32 by robdylan Reply
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  • Yah – replacements are working :lol:
    but it’s also true that none of them were thrown in a deep end (ie. without support of senior players) – when u look at the side from sat. it was only swanepoel and vulindlu who were relatively inexperienced the rest – old heads. and that definitely gave new guys confidence and bit of stress relief.

  • Comment 38, posted at 06.04.09 17:54:48 by rekinek Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 35) : yeah stressing is my prob. i see gaps and watch them go the wrong way. i sometimes find that if i do something like count tackles by a player i see a bit more.

  • Comment 39, posted at 06.04.09 18:00:48 by try time Reply

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  • @try time (Comment 39) : counting tackles – that sounds like intense concentration, but don’t u loose a bit of a whole picture.

  • Comment 40, posted at 06.04.09 18:07:16 by rekinek Reply
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  • @rekinek (Comment 40) : not as much as panicking does. don’t count everyones tackle, choose one or two. i like using it to focus on a specific part of the game. i was counting stefans kicks/runs the one game. it helps to focus you on the game. against the cheetahs i think i will watch rory’s pass die kick ratio.

  • Comment 41, posted at 06.04.09 18:26:03 by try time Reply

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  • pass die kick clean break, you mean?

  • Comment 42, posted at 06.04.09 19:27:52 by robdylan Reply
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  • @try time (Comment 41) :
    @robdylan (Comment 42) : :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
    wanted to suggest pass v break (or attempted break)

    tt – i must try your method. not this weekend though – will be driving down to bloem and whenever watching from the stands there is even more distractions :lol:

  • Comment 43, posted at 06.04.09 20:00:05 by rekinek Reply
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  • Bryce has raised his concerns about Plum not using his full compliment of 22.

    I might need to re-has an arti I did years ago on the importance of replacements and how modern rugby should move away from the starting 15 type of mindset.

  • Comment 44, posted at 07.04.09 15:06:28 by Morné Reply
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