robdylan

Bleeding in the backs


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 12 Jun 2009 at 12:35

The Sharks have lost a truly astounding amount of backline talent over the course of the last few years, leading to a worrying lack of depth – this was evident against the Lions on Wednesday night. We don’t seem to be replacing these players through external contracting, while the youngsters from the Academy don’t seem to be benefiting in terms of opportunities to play at a higher level.

I’ve looked back at the squads we picked for the Currie Cup and Super 14 competitions going back as far as 2006 and the level of attrition is frankly shocking. Of the 22 backline players to have represented the Sharks in the 2006 Currie Cup (the year of the infamous “dual squad” approach), only 7 now remain. Looking at a more recent times, a review of the backs in the 2008 Super 14 squad (that was just last year) reveals that more than half have now left. Let’s just bear in mind here that we’re not only talking about the Ockie Vermuelens and Brett Hennesseys of the world – the Sharks have lost seriously big names including Butch James, Bradley Barritt and most recently, Francois Steyn.

The attrition rate amongst the age group teams is hardly better, with a number of promising players, such as Scott Spedding and Sizwe Zondo, moving off overseas before representing the senior side at all.

All a little bit concerning if you consider that the only backline players that have actually been procured in the last few years are Len Olivier (who has never been played) and Charl McLeod. Sure, there’s the occasional marquee international flyhalf brought in for a campaign, but what that does in terms of building long-term capability is unclear. We now end up in the situation where we are drastically understaffed at flyhalf, centre, wing and fullback. Only scrumhalf looks all right with Rory Kockott, McLeod and Ross Cronjé all viable options.

The failure to groom a long-term successor to Butch James has seen a slew of players tried (and discarded) at flyhalf. Ruan Pienaar has emerged as the new first-choice, but now that Steyn and Barrit have left, we have only Monty Dumond as cover, who is patently not up to the job. Len Olivier and Guy Cronjé are completely untested, as is exciting youngster Pat Lambie.

In the centres, Riaan Swanepoel has suddenly become our first-choice inside centre, after being a complete greenhorn last year. Andries Strauss is still as slow as always, leaving Adi Jacobs as the only center of proven quality in the squad. Ian Adendorff and Zuks Vulindlu are the young guns on the horizon, although the latter may well be pressed into service on the wing, where we are again hopelessly short of options outside of the established pair of JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane. Lwazi Mvovo looks the best of the up-and-comers.

Fullback offers no clear options outside of the rapidly-aging Stefan Terblanche.

Here’s a partial list of backline players to have left (or otherwise become unavailable for) the Sharks in the last few years:

Scott Spedding, Steve Meyer, Sizwe Zondo, Brad Barritt, Andrew Binikos, Gcobani Bobo, Brett Hennessey, Butch James, Cedric Mkhize (retired), Dusty Noble, Howard Noble, Sandile Nzumalo, Grant Rees, Brent Russell, Frans Steyn, Mzwandile Stick, Ockie Vermeulen, Ignus Prinsloo, Tiaan Marx, Craig Burden (converted to hooker), Scott Mathie, Henno Mentz, Dumi Matyeshana, Fred Michalak, Frank Wagenstroom



36 Comments

  • this is actually scary.

  • Comment 1, posted at 12.06.09 13:03:01 by robdylan Reply
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  • I started to think the same thing until I questioned what the above players had offered us. Fred was drafted in short term, so he is an exception, but really, which of those players aside from Brad, Butch (and to a degree Brent Russell) were ever, or going to be proven winners?

  • Comment 2, posted at 12.06.09 14:32:17 by Baldrick Reply

    BaldrickCurrie Cup player
     
  • @Baldrick (Comment 2) : yeah, but it’s not like they’ve been replaced by anyone better, is the thing. Better to have some options than no options

  • Comment 3, posted at 12.06.09 14:36:46 by robdylan Reply
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  • Trevor Halstead :roll:

  • Comment 4, posted at 12.06.09 14:37:18 by Charlie Reply

    CharlieSuper Rugby player
     
  • @robdylan (Comment 3) : Agreed, and we have heamorraged seriously over the years.

  • Comment 5, posted at 12.06.09 14:42:55 by Baldrick Reply

    BaldrickCurrie Cup player
     
  • Rob

    What do you think of the U20 flyhalf/inside center Francois Brummer???

    I reckon he is a decent prospect but the Bulls have prolly contracted him until 2022. :???:

  • Comment 6, posted at 12.06.09 14:43:36 by wpw Reply
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  • @Charlie (Comment 4) : OK, so fill me in here… you reckon Trev will play any Currie Cup? Is he still such a tank?

    @wpw (Comment 6) : they have so many I struggle to tell them apart

  • Comment 7, posted at 12.06.09 14:48:45 by robdylan Reply
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  • Not sure if he will play…Tank or Carthorse ??? :roll:

  • Comment 8, posted at 12.06.09 14:52:35 by Charlie Reply

    CharlieSuper Rugby player
     
  • Play Oom Stef at 10 :lol:

  • Comment 9, posted at 12.06.09 14:57:38 by Worcestershire Sauce Reply
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    Worcestershire SauceCurrie Cup player
     
  • @robdylan (Comment 3) :
    Well, ahead of them is / was virtually the whole of the Bok backline. I think we will just have to get used to not having serious depth in most positions, especially if that depth is not going to get quality playing time. Any half decent player in any position is able to make a living in Europe, and get regular game time even if it isnt at the highest level.

  • Comment 10, posted at 12.06.09 15:12:40 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • 2006 and Dick Muir’s vision was legendary. Then, we had almost 2 teams with similar depth. It scares me how far we’ve fallen since then in terms of depth and quality.

    Even though we didn’t win anything, Dick built the foundations and we were playing a brand of rugby that was magic to watch!

  • Comment 11, posted at 12.06.09 15:16:33 by Villie Reply
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  • I reckon we use 2009 as a year of building the foundation. Go with the youngsters and stick with them for the whole season. Tell them to go and play without fear of getting dropped because they have 10 – 15 games over which they will be judged and they won’t be dropped after 2 or 3 bad performances.

    It’s what Free State did in cricket in the early 90′s. They were the worst team but had an incredible crop of youngsters like Rudi Steyn, Louis Wilkinson etc. They backed these guys and for the first season, they looked totally out of their depth and were beaten by everyone…but the management had faith in them. What happened? These guys paid back this faith BIG time…they became the best team in the country. All because they identified talent and said to them, we’ll stick by you for a period of time.

    Go for players like Lambie, Cronje twins, Zuks, Mvovo, Swannie etc and expose them to the higher level. The benefits will be reaped over time.

    If we continue with the Dumond’s and Skipper’s….we will win nothing and have achieved nothing!

  • Comment 12, posted at 12.06.09 15:22:43 by Villie Reply
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  • @Villie (Comment 12) : amen! Couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I just find it really disappointing that we had the makings of such a good young backline with Barritt, Steyn, Murray et al and that we are now looking at starting over 3 years later.

  • Comment 13, posted at 12.06.09 15:29:01 by robdylan Reply
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  • Do you guys think that Waylon Murray will recover and be a force for us? Or will he also leave?

    We could field a useful CC backline as follows:

    9 Kockott
    10 Cronje
    11 Murray
    12 Swanepoel
    13 Zuks
    14 Mvovo
    15 Terblanche

    20 McLeod
    21 Lambie
    22 Adendorff

  • Comment 14, posted at 12.06.09 15:34:02 by robdylan Reply
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  • hey everybody

    sorry i’ve been away so long, went on a field trip to botswana, missed midweek sharks game and apparently did not miss much, in my opinion monty dumond should be banned from playing for the sharks at any level higher than vodacom cup, and so like you guys have been saying give the youbgsters a chance in the cc

  • Comment 15, posted at 12.06.09 15:55:02 by war1 Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 15) : these “youbgsters” of yours sound dangerous :)

  • Comment 16, posted at 12.06.09 18:07:33 by robdylan Reply
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  • Rob, you such a clown you know!

  • Comment 17, posted at 12.06.09 18:27:55 by wpw Reply
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  • @wpw (Comment 17) : i try my best

  • Comment 18, posted at 12.06.09 18:54:06 by robdylan Reply
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  • Im i just very tipsy or is Number 10 not a half bad movie

  • Comment 19, posted at 12.06.09 19:09:02 by Claytie Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 14) : Wont it be better for Zuks to play wing and Murray centre? Just asking. I know Zuks is a 13, but he is quicker than Murray. Or not? And Murray slightly brawnier?

  • Comment 20, posted at 13.06.09 07:53:09 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

    JustPlainSHARKCurrie Cup player
     
  • @robdylan (Comment 14) : Wont it be better for Zuks to play wing and Murray centre? Just asking. I know Zuks is a 13, but he is quicker than Murray. Or not? And Murray slightly brawnier?

  • Comment 21, posted at 13.06.09 07:53:09 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

    JustPlainSHARKCurrie Cup player
     
  • @robdylan (Comment 14) : Wont it be better for Zuks to play wing and Murray centre? Just asking. I know Zuks is a 13, but he is quicker than Murray. Or not? And Murray slightly brawnier?

  • Comment 22, posted at 13.06.09 07:53:09 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

    JustPlainSHARKCurrie Cup player
     
  • BTW, with Jean Div possibly going overseas, i reckon that Frans Steyn would then have the best possible opportunity to secure the no. 12 spot for the Boks (given that Wynand has a poor season). Always hoped/thought/bargained that the Sharks would lure Peter Grant and Walter Venter, but with Jean and Mossie POSSIBLY leaving, their unions would now cling to the former.

  • Comment 23, posted at 13.06.09 08:00:46 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

    JustPlainSHARKCurrie Cup player
     
  • @JustPlainSHARK (Comment 23) : I mean, if Steyn would have stayed in SA and not go racing to the METROpolis known as Paris. :-D

  • Comment 24, posted at 13.06.09 08:03:22 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

    JustPlainSHARKCurrie Cup player
     
  • @JustPlainSHARK (Comment 21) : yeah- just figured Waylon could use some time at wing to get his confidence back.

    @JustPlainSHARK (Comment 23) : Wynand has had a poor season? Which Super 14 did you watch? :mrgreen:

  • Comment 25, posted at 13.06.09 11:39:23 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 25) : I said “has” a poor season, not “had”. He was briliant this year. Him and Jaque are my combo as Bok centres. So the only way for Frans to get in is for Wynand to have a poor season :-)

  • Comment 26, posted at 15.06.09 06:53:27 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

    JustPlainSHARKCurrie Cup player
     
  • @JustPlainSHARK (Comment 26) : ah – ok :)

  • Comment 27, posted at 15.06.09 09:06:52 by robdylan Reply
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  • I will say what I said a while back.

    You guys underestimate just how much of a loss Muir was and what he did for this union.

  • Comment 28, posted at 15.06.09 09:25:46 by Morné Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 28) : I think you may be right

  • Comment 29, posted at 15.06.09 10:21:00 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 28) : Totally agree. I am and always was a BIG fan of Dick Muir both as a player and coach.

    His biggest strength was that he was never afraid to make big calls. Sometimes they looked foolish but he was always brave enough.
    Was also prepared to throw a youngster in if he thought they had what it takes. Who can forget him giving Frans Steyn that start at 10, in the rain, against Wee Pee? Or selecting Carl Bezuidenhout at 15. Or even bringing JP through.

    He deserves a lot of credit for the development of the side. Also remember where we were when he took over!

  • Comment 30, posted at 15.06.09 10:28:34 by Villie Reply
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  • @Villie (Comment 30) :
    “Also remember where we were when he took over!”
    so true.

  • Comment 31, posted at 15.06.09 10:33:04 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 29) : @Villie (Comment 30) : @Salmonoid (Comment 31) :

    Look I had all the understanding in the world when Plum took over and you guys raved about the appointment.

    I was apprehensive because his record at top flight Super rugby as head coach was still unproven, and Dick did wonders with a Sharks team that was deep in shit, you cannot put a price on what Muir did.

    Each coach though likes to do things his way, and perhaps Plum just needs time which is fair.

  • Comment 32, posted at 15.06.09 11:41:41 by Morné Reply
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    MornéTeam captain
     
  • @Morné (Comment 32) : problem is, the underlying contracting issue still stands, so it’s not going to matter too much who’s coaching the team…

  • Comment 33, posted at 15.06.09 11:59:03 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 33) :

    Plum needs to build, simple as that.

  • Comment 34, posted at 15.06.09 12:44:23 by Morné Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 34) : yes – I think you’re right. We need to accept that we’ll always be building, though, because once the guys attain a level of seniority and realise they can do better elsewhere, they’ll leave.

  • Comment 35, posted at 15.06.09 13:16:09 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 35) :

    I think the secret can be found at the Bulls and to my knowledge Muir did a similar thing at the Sharks when he started.

    He placed arguably as much as 60% effort into looking at the youth and club structures in the province, it paid off.

    Plum should take charge in that way too.

  • Comment 36, posted at 15.06.09 13:46:22 by Morné Reply
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