Coaching a ‘Super Team’ and coaching a ‘Test Team’ are ‘Poles Apart’, but after Round 11 of Super Rugby the three national coaches must now be surely starting to sit up and take notice of what is unfolding in front of them during the weekends.
Watching their respective Super teams during the first half of the Super Rugby competition must have been close to meaningless (some would argue it still is). It must have been solely an exercise in assessing test incumbent’s week on week form and the monitoring of player injuries. For all pundits, (national coaches included) it has been easy to say up until now ‘that there is plenty of time’ (for players to run into a bit of form) and ‘that it is a long season’ (for players to recover from injury).
So can the three wise men learn anything from their Super coaching counterparts.
Well the easy answer is – NO !
But now I’m not so sure, as we approach the business end of the Super season.
Recently I have been pondering if they (the national coaches) can get away with picking the exact same sides that they selected last year, or do they have to acknowledge some of the new talent, current form and experience in their respective Conferences. I am now starting to think the Tri Nations coach that gets the right mix and blend of players going into the RWC will win the tournament.
Conversely if they slip into their comfort zones or refuse to regain consciousness from their existing comas and blindly select what has worked in the past – then there could be ‘trouble at mill’.
So who can they take a lesson from when looking at the Super Rugby competition? Test Rugby is not Super Rugby and the Super Competition is not the RWC, but surely there are pointers and things to learn from our coaches in the Super competition.
So what gem or nugget of mastery can be learnt from some very fine coaches doing the rounds in the three Conferences? Well one does not really need to look any further than the Australian Conferences table topping Queensland Reds. They are flying at the minute and Ewen McKenzie can take a lot of credit for that.
So what has he done well?
Well, McKenzie has placed great value on getting his mix of players on the field in any one time – exactly right.
McKenzie inherited a season and half ago a young and underperforming side, that was lacking in many departments.
This year, one of McKenzie’s great attributes has been his ability to get the right mix and blend of youth, form and experience on the paddock at any one time. McKenzie has empowered his young guns and constantly selected some old heads in his match day squads while always acknowledging form. These old heads have often been different from week to week and this has given the Reds a fresh look as well as fresh legs that had been able to keep his charges one step ahead of the chasing pack (well that was true until the 80th minute on Saturday at the ‘Cake-Tin’).
The Reds are definitely no ‘Super Star-Studded Team’ but they do have an interesting mix of youthful new talent, form and experience.
In the form of :
Youthful /new talent: James Slipper, Beau Robinson, Luke Morahan, Mike Harris, Rob Simmons, Scott Higginbottom, James Hanson, Ben Daley, Will Chambers, Rod Davies, Liam Gill, Dom Shipperley and Ben Tapuai.
Form Players: Will Genia, Quade Cooper, James Horwill, Saia & Anthony Faingaa, Ben Lucas and Digby Ioane
Experience: Radike Samo, Adam Wallace-Harrison, Van Humphries, Guy Shepherdson, and Greg Holmes.
It is a Reds side that has an interesting balance which may well be one of its core strengths.
So if we were to apply the same formula to each of the national sides what players would fall into each category?
Who is the youthful, new talent in each respective Tri Nations country? Who are the form Test incumbents? and whose Test match playing experience will be vital to their international teams RWC tilt?
When you look quickly at the three coaches Deans looks best placed. He does not have a lot of injuries and his Super sides as a whole are firing well. On top of that he has some exciting new talent as well as a good pool of form and experience to select from.
Div, well who knows what he is thinking, but like Ted, they look to have the harder job. Div’s issue looks his player’s form, with some of his better Super teams struggling for form, will he just ignore that? Will he just run with the predetermined plan?
Ted’s group of 2010 world beating All Blacks are falling like flies to injuries. Squad depth and playing back-up in key positions looks a real problem.
Identifying fresh young talent, plus acknowledging the form of Test incumbent’s, as well as adding vital experience may well equate to a winning 2011 RWC Side.
However too much of one and too little of the others is easily done and could well prove a huge ‘school boy error’ by the men charged with winning the world tournament.
Ewan McKenzie has been able to identify talent recognise form and value experience in a way very few other Super Rugby coaches have. If the Tri Nation coaches can do the same thing, then they may just have one hand on the William Webb Ellis Cup.Tweet