Gerhard Mostert will see a specialist in Pretoria tomorrow to find out exactly what the prognosis is on his injured shoulder. Sharks doctor Craig Roberts’ assessment is far from positive and we’re expecting the big lock to be ruled out for the entire 2010 Super 14, if not the whole season.
As terrible a blow as this is, it is time for John Plumtree to fall back on the structures that have been put in place in Durban when looking for Mostert’s replacement. Any talk of a crisis in the second row is nothing but fallacy, as we pointed out a few weeks ago and while other websites are now questioning the decision to let Albert van den Berg go, I feel that this is a superb opportunity to test one of the umpteen young locks in the system and see who is ready to step up.
Johann Muller is another player who is doubtful for the weekend, after a (completely unpunished) swinging arm to the neck in the game against the Chiefs. While Alistair Hargreaves, himself a Bok midweek player, is a no-brainer as replacement for Mostert in the match 22, the more uncomfortable scenario will see the former SA Under 19 captain coming straight into the number 5 jersey if Muller too is ruled out against the Cheetahs. This leaves Plumtree with somewhat of a headache when it comes to the number 18 jersey, although in Mike Rhodes, the coach has a young player who is more than capable of deputising at this level of the game.
While the temptation will always be to pick Willem Alberts out of position at lock, I feel that this will be counter-productive and negate the players strengths. Why take a very good loose forward and turn him into a stopgap lock, rather than picking a young lock and letting him do his thing? While Rhodes himself has divided his time pretty much evenly between the second and back rows recently, at 1.97m he is far more “lock-sized” than the more compact 1.91m Alberts. Jandre Marais, Anton Bresler and even Meyer Swanepoel, who is the same height as Rhodes but a couple of kilos heavier (112kg) would all be sensible selections. I mean, come on – if the Cheetahs can pick an unknown like Walti Vermeulen as their reserve lock, why should the Sharks not be able to trust one of their own youngsters to do the job?
The problem, as always, tends to come back to Plumtree’s conservatism in selection; he’d rather play a senior out of position than give a youngster the opportunity to stake a claim. We saw this in the Super 14 last year, where Keegan Daniel was fielded at 7 while Justin Downey carried water bottles. The mad scramble to sign a “Super 14 quality” flyhalf led to the Steve Meyer debacle, whereas one feels that if they’d just rather decided to back Pat Lambie to get on with it, perhaps that move wouldn’t have been necessary. The treatment of Guy Cronjé in last year’s Currie Cup was yet more proof. Even when grudgingly picked, the players around him were clearly under strict instruction to ensure the youngster wasn’t given the ball, unless as a last resort! Giving Wiehahn Herbst the opportunity to start at tighthead, with the master John Smit next to him would do the youngster the world of good and also give the coach an opportunity to assess the team dynamics without the petulant du Plessis gang in the mix. About as likely to happen as snow on the Durban beachfront on Christmas Day, I fear.
The Sharks are crying out for fresh blood in a number of positions, particularly in the backs and one could only dream about what might be if players like Lwazi Mvovo, Luzuko Vulindlu, Jerome Pretorius and Jean Stemmet were actually given gametime and allowed to flourish. Instead, though, we stick with the same tried-and-tested old guard who in many cases are playing with the complacency that comes from knowing that your seniority will prevent you from being dropped. Food for thought? Is it too ambitious to hope that we might finally see a more adventurous approach in this year’s Super 14? Or will it be another campaign of panic buying and out-of-position selections every time injury strikes?Tweet