There’s a byline to this article – “What should we do with Keegan Daniel?”.
I have felt for some time that there’s been a distinct lack of thought when it comes to the way John Plumtree selects his loose forward combinations. The coach is blessed in that his first-choice combination just happens to be a very effective and well-balanced one, but the cynic in me is starting to wonder whether that might be more by accident than design.
The problem, as we’ve seen, is that the moment one of this terrific trio becomes unavailable for whatever reason, the coach reverts to default mode an shoehorns poor bloody Keegan Daniel into whichever jersey happens to be vacant. It’s not doing the team any good and it certainly isn’t showcasing Daniel’s impressive arsenal of skills – the latter may well be the reason that the player’s obvious frustration so often boils over, leading to the customary Daniel brain explosions that seem to account for around half of the yellow cards handed out to the Sharks in a typical season. The other half belongs to Rory Kockott, but that’s a topic for a different article altogether!
Keegan Daniel is an incredibly talented athlete, blessed with pace, sublime hands and a pretty good ability to read a game. One thing that cannot be brushed over, of course, is his relative lack of stature. At 1.85m tall and just a shade over 90kg, he is a good ten percent lighter than the average openside. Comparing him to the typical blindside or number 8, we’ll see that on average he’s 8-10 cm shorter and at least 15kg lighter. This in itself is not necessarily an issue, provided you have enough grunt in the rest of the trio (and the pack) to compensate. Hence Daniel can work very well when coupled with a bruiser like Jean Deysel, who punches way above his weight in the physical stakes.
What does not work, however – and I feel like I’ve been writing an article a week about this for three years – is coupling Daniel with Jacques Botes, who at a similar height to Daniel (yet crucially almost 10 kg heavier) is around spot on in terms of the “Brüssow form factor”. You can carry one smaller loose forward in your trio, but you can’t afford two. It’s a mantra that Plumtree needs to learn and perhaps inscribe on his bedpost.
Now, as mentioned, the issue is brought into very clear focus whenever we are forced to do without Deysel and the reality is that they kind of game he plays is going to take a huge toll on any body – his is no exception. There is now a legion of promising young sevens who have reasonably expected that they may be called on to step into the breach and establish themselves as Deysel’s deputy on these occasions – virtually without exception, they’ve been forced to stand back and watch as Daniel is pressed into service in a role that doesn’t suit him. Unless, that is, Daniel is already being used a makeshift number 8. Daniel’s seniority in the squad, it would seem, takes precedence to the balance of the loose trio and the team as a whole.
Am I the only one who’s noticed what sort of impact Thabo Mamojele is having playing for an outclassed Leopards side? He’s one of ours, you know, unless he’s already accepted the Leopards contract that I’m sure is being waved in front of his face. Lack of game time in Durban have forced him to seek opportunities elsewhere – the same has happened to Jacques Potgieter, now playing for the rapidly improving Mighty Elephants. Warren Whiteley, so impressive at number 8 in the Vodacom Cup may have had a legitimate expectation at a run for the Sharks in that position when Ryan Kankowski was called up. He is also with the Elephants now – it was either that or club rugby.
How long will it be before Mike Rhodes and Justin Downey also decide to clear off? The Sharks are doing what they always do here, which is hoping like hell that the Willem Alberts move is going to come off, but failing to put a back-up plan in place in case the Lions force him to honour his contract. It runs until the end of 2011, just by the way. Keegan Daniel, along with all the other players in the system, needs to find a position in which to settle – I feel it has to be 6 – and should be managed the same way as all the others in a clear pecking order. Jacques Botes is not the force he once was anyway, so perhaps a regular starting spot in a fixed position may not be as far off as Daniel might think it is.Tweet