robdylan

What lock crisis?


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 2 Feb 2010 at 10:48
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I note with some amusement that the Sharks are now facing a “second row crisis”, according to some reports. This, of course, in the wake of Johann Muller’s anticipated departure to Ulster after the Super 14.

I find it quite strange too that Muller is so widely derided by the supposedly all-knowing greater rugby community -only for his departure to go on and spark a crisis. If he’s that bad, surely we’d be better off without him? It seems in this era of rock star second rowers, a workhorse like Muller is only appreciated by those who know him best – his team mates in the tight five.

More to the point, though – anyone who is concerned about the second row depth in Durban needs to look a little deeper. Any talk of hasty purchases to bolster the second row depth need to be put aside, as the Sharks have more than enough talent in the system to ensure that numbers 4 and 5 should not be a problem for years to come. Although the loss of Muller, a stalwart and former Bok captain who has represented the Sharks for almost ten years, will always be felt, new acquisition Gerhard Mostert will push hard this Super 14 for a regular starting spot, perhaps even at Muller’s expense. The 25-year-old was one of the few Sharks players to really shine during the disappointing Neo Africa Tri-Series and appears to finally be fit and ready to challenge once more for higher honours – his only representative caps to date were for the Baby Boks in 2005.

The stand-out second row forward for the Sharks in 2009, though, was another 25-year old, who gained SA Under 19 honours in 2003 and was unlucky to miss out on a Bok cap last year, being called on to the bench for the third test against the Lions. Steven Sykes can’t have been far from the Sharks overall most valuable (as well as most improved) player last year and after spending a number of years trying to fight his way out of the immense shadow of one Johan Ackermann, seems to have finally dispelled the doubts about his ability to mix it up with the best of them. Sykes has an impressive turn of pace for such a big man and scored some lovely tries last year, but is not one to shy away from the rough stuff. I remember AJ Venter telling me some years ago that Sykes was the guy he had earmarked to take over his “enforcer” role in the Sharks pack.

When we look at the next tier, though, we start to appreciate exactly how much depth there is available, starting with the latest Bok in the ranks, Alistair Hargreaves. Hargs boasts an impressive junior pedigree, representing South Africa at under 19 level in both 2004 and 2005 (the year he was captain) as well as gaining caps for the under 21 side in 2006. A few years in the playing wilderness seem to have been brought to an end when he received a surprise call-up to join the Bok tour squad for last year’s end-of-year tour. A captain and leader through-and-through, Hargreaves, who turns 24 in April, will know that 2010 is the year in which he will need to step up and claim the number 5 jersey – and possibly the captain’s armband – for his own.

His window of opportunity will not stay open for long; a pair of tall brothers from Welkom, themselves both Baby Bok representatives, will be eager to make their mark on senior rugby in the not-too-distant future. Jandre and Peet Marais, who have the potential to form a dynamite combination, are also in the wider group and the older Jandre, in particular, was in fine form for the Sharks XV and Sharks under 21 side in 2009. His regular partner, Anton Bresler, is a number 5 with a nose for the tryline, while there are a number of other players on the fringes of the squad who could help out in the second row if required- Mike Rhodes and Luvo Lusaseni among them. The latter played for the Baby Boks in 2008.

The list goes one, of course. In addition to the younger Marais, another two Sharks under 19 locks are currently in the junior Bok picture. Kene Okafor missed out on selection for the tour to France that leaves this week as a result of passport issues, but is sure to be in the picture when the side to contest the 2010 IRB Junior World Cup is named. It will be Okafor’s second appearance at the tournament, having been capped in 2009. Big Johan Schoonbie, all 2.06 metres of him, will definitely be making the trip to France and is determined that he will be on the plane for Argentina later this year as well.

So let’s just do a quick count… outside of Muller, the Sharks have no fewer than 8 second rowers in the system who have played for South Africa at age-group level, as well as Rhodes and Bresler. Perhaps those prophesying doom and gloom should do their research first!



21 Comments

  • we’ve tried the buying… now it’s time to focus on working with what we have. Good locks are developed over time and Muller himself was a real lightweight when he started playing for our senior side in 2003.

  • Comment 1, posted at 02.02.10 10:51:36 by robdylan Reply
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  • Also read the article with some surprise. A lot of doomsdayers (from their HQ in Cape Town) saying the Sharks look weak and writing up the chances of the Stormers once again. (Dejavu every year) Should probably consider where the article is coming from.

    While you are on the depth we have in the ranks – howabout finding us a much needed fetcher in the ranks. Don’t know whether Keegan and Rooikappie (Botes) will improve on last year.

  • Comment 2, posted at 02.02.10 11:58:47 by Butchie Reply

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  • @Butchie (Comment 2) : Renaldo Bothma… heart the size of a ten ton truck.

  • Comment 3, posted at 02.02.10 12:13:23 by robdylan Reply
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  • Gerhard Mostert is a great lock (PdV infited him to Springbok practises) but is a walking injury

  • Comment 4, posted at 02.02.10 12:32:49 by monster Reply

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  • @monster (Comment 4) : well, let’s hope those days are behind him now.

  • Comment 5, posted at 02.02.10 12:56:45 by robdylan Reply
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  • Rob, your article is spot on, lots of talent there, unfortunatly all still very young.

    Im really dissapointed in Johan Muller wanting to leave, not so much in his impending absense (which will be missed) but rather in him not gutsing it out for a world cup spot. He probably knows lots of stuff we dont though. Agood season would surely see him in the broader picture.

  • Comment 6, posted at 02.02.10 13:05:31 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 6) : reckon being left out for Hargreaves last year was the final straw for him.

  • Comment 7, posted at 02.02.10 13:08:24 by robdylan Reply
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  • I think ?Muller has always flattered to deliver, so I asy good luck to him. I think we’ll be fine.

  • Comment 8, posted at 02.02.10 13:37:16 by Zulushark Reply

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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) :
    It probably was.
    The more I think about it the more valuable I see him being… to a world cup squad next year. He has captained the Boks on an away leg in the tri-nations, he has loads of experience and if he regains his form will be a very valuable squad player in games when top players are being rested against your abrasive Georgians, Tongans etc.

  • Comment 9, posted at 02.02.10 13:42:55 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Zulushark (Comment 8) : I reckon he was an absolutely core member of the tight five that destroyed all comers between 2006 and 2008

  • Comment 10, posted at 02.02.10 13:50:55 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 9) : problem is, he’s not considered as good a 5 as Bekker or as good a 4 as Pakslae.

    In both cases, I think they’re wrong, but yeah. He didn’t cover himself with glory in 09, so hard to argue in his favour.

  • Comment 11, posted at 02.02.10 13:54:01 by robdylan Reply
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  • A voice of reason and sanity – thanks Rob. See you gave up with those two twits on Keo……

  • Comment 12, posted at 02.02.10 17:24:59 by Just a Fan Reply

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  • @Just a Fan (Comment 12) : they’re good guys… just got a little heated. It happens in that place.

    Man, I used to go in there swinging, back in the day

  • Comment 13, posted at 02.02.10 18:26:50 by robdylan Reply
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  • yeah the sharks won’t need locks this year. in fact they should leave all the gates open to try get some spectators in.

  • Comment 14, posted at 03.02.10 08:31:31 by try time Reply

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  • @try time (Comment 14) : is there an older joke anywhere in the world? I doubt it :-)

  • Comment 15, posted at 03.02.10 08:35:00 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 15) : anything is better than the doom and gloom of the shark supporters and they haven’t even played their first game. :lol:

  • Comment 16, posted at 03.02.10 08:55:01 by try time Reply

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  • @try time (Comment 16) : who are you and what have you done with my friend try time?

  • Comment 17, posted at 03.02.10 09:14:41 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 17) : i took a sabbatical over december as you may have noticed as i posted close to zilch. i made a new years resolution to try be as positive as possible to keep my blood pressure down and give the team a chance. but trust me let one of those fools let me down, then i’ll summon up the wrath i have suppressed. :lol: :lol:

  • Comment 18, posted at 03.02.10 09:20:28 by try time Reply

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  • @try time (Comment 18) : I like it… let’s see how long it lasts :mrgreen:

  • Comment 19, posted at 03.02.10 10:45:31 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 19) :
    I reckon TT will have popped a blood vessel by Stefans 3rd kick and chase in the 1st half. I give it 35 minutes max into the opening game.

  • Comment 20, posted at 03.02.10 11:07:51 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 20) : :)

    Let’s hope that Stef learns his lesson after Sivi’s first try… :(

  • Comment 21, posted at 03.02.10 11:21:09 by robdylan Reply
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