Something that occurred to me just a day or so ago. With Johann Muller already confirmed to leave after the Super 14 and both John Smit and Stefan Terblanche unlikely to play any Currie Cup, the Sharks are getting to the point where they need to appoint a new captain, not only for that competition but also to take them forward from here.
The problem with having a leader of the calibre of Smit is that it tends to dissuade you from developing others to take over. We’ve seen this in the Bok camp, where there isn’t a clear candidate being groomed to take over from Smit when he does step aside after the 2011 World Cup. For the Sharks, Muller has done a good job when required, but he has confirmed that he will join Ulster in mid-year. Terblanche is older than Smit anyway and according to my understanding, will retire after the Super 14 as well. He may stay on to play Currie Cup, but my feeling is that we really should be looking to develop a new captain this year, rather than sit with a void once Stef and John are gone.
John Smit is going to have a lot on his plate in 2011 and keeping him in shape for the World Cup should probably take priority over him starting every match for the Sharks in the expanded Super 15. If we pick a promising candidate and let him take the reigns during the Currie Cup, then we’ll have an experienced skipper ready to fill in for John when required next year.
It all sounds good on paper – until you start looking around for candidates, though. My feeling is that a captain needs to able to hold down a regular starting spot and the amount of rotation going on in the Sharks right now makes that difficult. Steven Sykes and Ryan Kankowski are the only two forwards to have started every game so far, yet neither really strikes you as the captain type. The former is a quiet workhorse, while the latter seems far too laid-back. The only current members of the Sharks pack that boast captaincy experience are Willem Alberts and Alistair Hargreaves and I believe either could develop into a very good skipper in time. Alberts still needs to find a regular starting spot, always difficult with Jean Deysel also in the picture and the fact that he is new to the system will make it that much harder for him.
Hargreaves, on the other hand, has all the credentials, having led his country at junior level and has been a part of the Sharks setup since he was a schoolboy. He is maturing as a tight forward and is a near certainty to take over the number 5 jersey on a permanent basis once Muller moves on.
If there are any suitable candidates among the backs, then I’m afraid they’re really not immediately obvious. If memory serves, Riaan Swanepoel may have captained the Sharks under 21s few years ago, but again, Swannie strikes me as a guy who’s more interested in quietly getting the job done, rather than the vocal, inspirational leader sort of player.
What do the readers think? Is there an obvious candidate I’m missing? Or is Hargreaves the guys to take the Sharks forward into 2011 and beyond?Tweet