“If Johann is out for six to eight weeks, then I might have to look for a lock,” said John Plumtree. What happened to all the ones you had, John? Or should we be addressing this question to Rudolf Straueli rather?
It’s kind of ironic, actually, that I was having a chat with Nolan Clark on Friday and he told me he was on the verge of signing a contract to move to Griqaus on a permanent basis. Clark, a young lock who represented the Sharks XV with distinction this year is just the latest in a pretty long line of second row talent to leave the Union in recent times. Their stories are all the same – no game time, no opportunities to develop or improve, very little feedback as to what they need to do to get closer to the team and a Commercial Manager who doesn’t see the sense in offering any sort of contract to fringe players. In short, it really isn’t all that surprising that the Sharks are short of depth in virtually every single position.
Clark was probably more of a journeyman than a real star – a stalwart on the local club scene, he always stood up when required. If his departure was an isolated case, that would be one thing, but this comes hot on the heels of another lock with a far more impressive pedigree, Joe Snyman. The youngster has a big game for the Lions on Saturday and the Sharks could definitely use him now. Four long years of being jerked around while any number of other players, who were clearly not up to the task, were picked ahead of him finally took their toll on Snyman and he left. This is a kid that played for South Africa at under-19 level and spent four years being developed by the Sharks. And yet we gave him a single senior cap. What a waste. What a terrible waste.
There are any number of other names, too. Rudi Mathee, currently earning rave reviews as the star of the Leopards tight five, was on our books at one stage, very briefly. Ruahan van Jaarsveldt from the Valke was with us for the Vodacom Cup – he has left to go to Eastern Province. His namesake Schalk (otherwise known as Pampoen) has disappeared off the scene entirely – I can only assume this means he is in France. Jacques Potgieter, more a loosie, but useful as lock cover, now also with the Mighty Elephants. Juandre Mynhardt? If nothing else, he sure was big! The list goes on.
So who do we have in reserve? Young Jan-André Marais is a talent, but still only 19. Mike Rhodes might be a useful lock replacement, but his recurring knee injury, coupled with a penchant for the high life, seem to be hampering his progress. Al Hargreaves is still crocked, and in five years is yet to deliver on any of the promise he showed as a 19-year-old. Nqubeko Zulu is a hard grafter, but at 1.92m, is he really big enough to make it in the second row? Luvo Lusaseni is there, but he’s more a flank these days. Nik Blignaut? Ag, nevermind… I rest my case.
It looks like, once again, we’ll be hauling out the chequebook and papering over the cracks. I find myself wondering where Plum is going to go shopping for this lock of his. Let’s hope we don’t end up with yet another Bedford Blues reject in the mould of Nic Strauss…Tweet