It continues to amaze me how we frown upon versatility and how we want to make every single rugby player a specialist.
The game of rugby union has come a long way, just this weekend when Joe Pietersen left the field with a quad strain, I mentioned to a friend a story I heard about a rugby player (NZ’lander if memory serves) in the mid 1900’s once told the ‘team doctor’ (many thought they were actually vets) to amputate a finger so he can continue playing…
However, as the IRB’s Rugby Charter states, rugby is still a sport for players and athletes of all sizes, cultures and backgrounds, and in modern rugby where we create monster athletes, this is still the case in my view.
Rugby union is unique in the sense that you need such an array of skills across your match-day 22, that you really can almost find a spot for all types of players who brings different skills to the party.
Some players will have more limited skills than others, or more specialised skills for a better word, it is therefore logical that their contribution to the game of rugby will also be more specialised but also, more limited.
Rugby union fans and coaches (including players) alike however must be the only people in the world where being limited is preferred!
Of course understand that it also pisses me off to no end when players are shoved from pillar to post and yes, the game of union definitely relies heavily on specialised skills, otherwise we would not need numbers on jerseys to start off with, but it really irritates me how versatility is shunned in favour, or rather at the expense of limited specialist skills.
Being versatile is as much of a needed skill in rugby union as being a specialist, and can add so much to a team and team dynamics.
So why do we not identify players as being specialised, and being versatile? Why do we continually want to stick versatile players in a limited role where they will compete against specialist where their major contributing strength is nullified?
In rugby, where you are limited to a large extend with what you are allowed to do, or what (and how many) you are allowed to pick, options is key – the more you have, the better off you are.
This brings me to a guy like Ruan Pienaar who is again being touted as being the guy to lead the Sharks from the number 10 berth given Andy Goode’s poor performances on tour so far for the Sharks.
It is fine that Ruan is considered to be played there, he is good enough obviously, but why the massive drive or motivation to have him specialise there?
I ask this because I want to know, what has Ruan Pienaar’s biggest contribution been to rugby both for the Sharks and the Springboks since 2005? Is it his specialised skills as a 9, or 10, or is it his versatility which enables him to basically cover any position in the backline (starting or from the bench)?
Why is versatility not celebrated as a specialist skill as-well? Because one thing I can guarantee you, very few players have the ability and the skill to cover 9, 10, 12, 11 or 14 and 15 effectively at union and national level.
A guy like Ruan gives any coach options, and options in rugby is a massive advantage, same as a prop that can play both sides, a lock that can pack down at loosie, etc.
Ruan Pienaar will be in my match 22 every single time injury permitting for both the Sharks and the Boks, he is that damn good, and this cannot be said of many players in world rugby.Tweet