Morné

Backing your boykies!


Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 14 Jun 2011 at 11:33
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I had to borrow this slogan from the Varsity Cup simply because it best describes why some teams seem to be on the up, and others going down.

A couple of weeks ago I shared some thoughts on coaching highlighting the principles of Reds coach, Ewen McKenzie. For those who missed it, the key areas for successful coaching according to McKenzie basically came down to recruitment, retention and team culture.

As we approach the end of the first season of Super Rugby, it is interesting to look back specifically at South African teams and how they performed this year.

Even though the Lions and Cheetahs find themselves in the bottom half of the log yet again, there seems to be a feeling of accomplishment associated with those teams rather than the doom and gloom which is usually associated with them at the end of a Super Rugby season.

Both teams at times played some scintillating rugby knocking over some big teams in the process, and recording some surprising victories on tour. The Lions’ season of course is over, but their performance in their last match in which they held the star-studded Sharks side to a dramatic 30-all draw at Coke Park will go a long way to instil some sort of confidence amongst their supporters and the South African rugby public in general.

The Cheetahs will close off their campaign this weekend against the table-topping Stormers, and I will be surprised if you find one supremely confident Stormers supporter out there this week as they prepare to travel to icy Bloemfontein where they have to record a win to qualify for a home semi.

Both teams, their coaches and their fans will tell you there is a lot of work that still needs to be done at both unions or franchises, but there is no doubt that these teams are on an upward curve.

Analyzing the seasons of these teams, one thing sticks out to me; ‘When the situation demanded it, they backed their boykies!’.

Of course, much of this can be argued to be the result of the teams’ inability to recruit outside talent either based on lack of financial muscle, or players currently unable to move to new teams because of existing contracts in place. We also know that injuries played a big part in certain players being forced, rather than backed to step up, but the end result remains the same, they stepped up big time.

The Cheetahs started their season seemingly backing the ‘tried and tested’ players and combinations, and where some are world class, others are decidedly average. It was also not a case of players starting their professional careers that made the step up, in fact, many of them have been waiting in the wings for some time, names like Ashley Johnson, Sarel Pretorius, Robert and Sias Ebersohn, are just a few who had a massive impact for their team in this year’s competition.

The Lions’ story is similar. Although they had the cash, their timing on recruiting quality players was off resulting in the team and coach being forced to risk the untried and untested. Names like Minnie, Strauss, Murray (prior to injury), Van Rensburg and Killian are a few youngsters who suddenly had some tongues wagging given their on-field contributions at Super Rugby level.

But it is not just the teams languishing at the bottom of the log that we can highlight. The Stormers seemed to have turned a corner in their retention policy too. Names like Kitshoff, Elstadt, Cronje, Schroeder, Van Aswegen, Coleman, Poolman, Sadie, Engelbrecht were all called upon for the Super Rugby competition at some stage and for most, impressed all in sundry with their performances.

The Bulls for years have been known to bring through young talent, and although they are stuttering their way into play-off contention, a look at their back up players that will take over from next year once the old-guard ships off, and the experience they will have amongst themselves, ensures that the Blue Machine will keeping on steaming ahead in 2012.

It is one team however that left me perplexed as I watched the match at Coke Park last Saturday. Apart from the Bulls, the Sharks has arguably been one of the best teams in South African rugby in the last decade especially given their performances at Super Rugby level. They are a team blessed with many Springboks, past and present, but lately, their player retention and player recruitment policies seems to have taken a massive dive.

In the last 4 to 5 years, the Sharks have lost many players, and although this is not new in professional rugby for any team, the fact that many of these players are well below the age of 30 or even 25, and who replaced them either through recruitment or development, must even have the most passionate Sharks supporter slightly worried.

It cannot be blamed on lack of finances available, or the lack of talent coming through the ranks of the academy or their successful U/19, U/21 and Vodacom Cup structures, so just why the Sharks currently seem unable to ‘back their boykies’, remains a bit of a mystery.

I don’t propose to know the players and their levels of skills currently waiting in the wings in the Sharks setup intimately, also not that I am a better talent scout than the gentleman within the union at various levels currently, but what I do know is that it was rather embarrassing for a union with such riches and reputation to be taught a rugby lesson at Coke Park last Saturday against a bunch of relatively unknown players at this level.

Don’t get me wrong, it is great to be able to see rugby geniuses like Michalak play Super Rugby, but you also have to sit back and ask at the expense of who, or what?

It’s actually quite ironic, the one player who sparked the amazing comeback for the Sharks being 9-30 down at one stage to end-up on 30-all at full time, was one of the very few youngsters the Sharks did decide to back in the last couple of years, Pat Lambie. Perhaps there is a lesson in that…



54 Comments

  • Good read Morne, quite a few youngsters have really shone this year.

  • Comment 1, posted at 14.06.11 12:02:07 by molly Reply
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  • And the evidence is there for all to see, the Sharks surely must give it a shot, although it may be too late with a must win game coming up this week.

  • Comment 2, posted at 14.06.11 12:04:14 by molly Reply
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  • Thanks for a great read Morne!!

    I must say I can’t ever recall you ever writing an average article.

    I wonder when you’ll pen an article along the lines of ‘Backing MY Stormers’ cos you sure as hell write more about the Sharks than anyone else!! :twisted: ;-)

  • Comment 3, posted at 14.06.11 12:11:25 by wpw Reply
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  • I agree totally…..but then we’ve been saying this for years.

    I must say that I have been very impressed with the youngsters that the unions have brought in especially at the Stormers.

    Plumtree is just too conservative IMO and the few times he did trust youngsters it actually worked for him.

    Come-on Plum…grow some and start believing in the youth!

  • Comment 4, posted at 14.06.11 12:15:40 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Hi guys, if you haven’t yet, read this :http://www.iol.co.za/news/back-page/botox-name-of-the-game-for-bulls-1.1082485.

    I wonder if they are talking about Meisiekind?

  • Comment 5, posted at 14.06.11 12:39:26 by KingRiaan Reply

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  • It’s very easy to criticise from a distance. There has to be a balance, experience is vital but maybe Plum has taken it a bit far. Too many young players have had their careers ruined by pushing them too far too quickly. It’s a very delicate business to integrate young players into a team and needs very careful management to get long-term benefits.

  • Comment 6, posted at 14.06.11 12:39:54 by war1 Reply
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  • While we’re talking about players coming and going – is there anything in Alastair Coetzee leaving the Stormers as coach? I heard something today but was’nt sure it was him?

  • Comment 7, posted at 14.06.11 12:41:05 by Caratacus Reply

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  • I’ll say it again, my biggest fear at this point is that we get knocked out of the Super 15, and subsequently, due to the pressure on him to produce some results, Plum enters the Currie Cup with a “win at all costs” mentality, thereby sticking with his tried and tested (in his view) combinations and not using the opportunity to blood young players.

    Fact is, with the World Cup later this year, the Currie Cup is going to be somewhat watered down, and really, really, really *should* be used as a trial and testing ground for next year’s Super 15.

    OK, I’m getting off my soapbox now

  • Comment 8, posted at 14.06.11 12:46:14 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 8) : don’t… the more people we have on that particular soapbox, the better. Chance that things might actually change then.

  • Comment 9, posted at 14.06.11 12:48:17 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 8) : actually wait… need to clarify this.

    when Plum finds that he has virtually ALL of his Super Rugby loose forwards available for the Currie Cup, it makes sense to pick his strongest combination against strong opposition. I don’t for a moment think we should pick Coetzee at 8 to face the Bulls at Loftus, for e.g., if we have Kankowski fit and available.

    When we play the likes of the Leopards, though, I feel we really should be giving youngsters starting opportunities, even if we keep the regular starters on the bench as an insurance policy. We learn nothing by fielding our first-choice side against a Currie Cup minnow, IMHO.

    The real clincher comes when we have an injury, or many players unavailable in the same position. We’re likely to be without any real experience at loosehead and in the back three for the Currie Cup. It is here that the real “backing of the structures” comes through…. does Plum back guys like Chadwick, Nhlapo, Sithole, Ricahrds and so on, or does he haul out the chequebook and go buy some has-beens from elsewhere who at least have experience?

    The fact that we bought Skeate last year when we had plenty young locks of our own available, together with the purchase of Marius Joubert for 13 makes me very concerned that nothing will change this Currie Cup.

  • Comment 10, posted at 14.06.11 12:58:13 by robdylan Reply
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  • How many young players have been selected start for the Stormers not because the more experienced player was injured? Elstadt is the only one I can think of.

  • Comment 11, posted at 14.06.11 13:11:48 by war1 Reply
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  • It is just too easy to say play the young players, because if we do and lose then Plum would still be at fault.

  • Comment 12, posted at 14.06.11 13:15:05 by war1 Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 11) :

    In Super Rugby you will play your best players whenever they are available, unless they are injured.

    Stormers was down to their 4th choice flyhalf in this competition in recent weeks, all because of injury.

    But here is the difference, the Stormers used 4 flyhalfs, however inexperienced when injuries came about. Cast your mind back to the last 3 years at the Sharks and specifically at flyhalf, or flyhalf cover… Who was brought in? From where?

  • Comment 13, posted at 14.06.11 13:15:58 by Morné Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 12) :

    To add to that, because THAT (refer to my previous post) was done, what will happen next year, or the year after if there is another crisis in that position?

    The Stormers now have 4 flyhalf’s with Super Rugby experience (however limited), I would go as far as to say that because they played a rookie Coleman against the Bulls, was one of the more important aspects on why they lost that game. I can however guarrantee you, it is a loss the Stormers and their supporters will take given how that game, and the experience, served Coleman for years to come when he will no doubt be called upon again…

  • Comment 14, posted at 14.06.11 13:20:02 by Morné Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 13) : Who was there waiting in the wings for us last year? Remember was still considered as a fullback.

  • Comment 15, posted at 14.06.11 13:21:11 by war1 Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 15) : we had Guy Cronje, for one thing.

  • Comment 16, posted at 14.06.11 13:25:34 by robdylan Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 15) :

    Ever heard of Coleman in your life before he took the field for the Stormers this year? I did not and I am supposedly a supporter of this team…

    Van Aswegen I believe has not even played a senior CC match. Cronje very limited opportunities.

  • Comment 17, posted at 14.06.11 13:25:40 by Morné Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 13) : I’m starting to think that virtually ALL the coaches have erred this season by not opting to rotate their players other than as a result of injury.

    18 weeks is too long for any guy to maintain peak form. The coaches were all talking about big squads and rotation at the beginning of the season, yet all seem to have shelved that plan as they went along. Tell you what, a lot of the Sharks current problems can be put down to the fact that guys like Alberts, Sykes, McLeod, Ludik, Bosman and Terblanche are simply exhausted after playing virtually every minute of every game.

  • Comment 18, posted at 14.06.11 13:28:02 by robdylan Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 15) :

    There must have been a fly half somewhere in KZN!
    That is the point Morne is trying to make.

  • Comment 19, posted at 14.06.11 13:29:39 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 18) :

    I think being the first season of the expanded comp this can be excused and yes, all coaches erred and were basically forced through injury to rotate and rest.

    Someone made a very interesting point the other day as to why SA teams in general seem to fair better than the Aussies or NZ boys specifically towards the end of the season?

    His reason, we have depth they can only dream of…

  • Comment 20, posted at 14.06.11 13:30:33 by Morné Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 18) : I definitely agree. I remembering literally laughing when I read a comment from Plum saying the Sharks were Ok because they had rotated their players.

  • Comment 21, posted at 14.06.11 13:31:36 by war1 Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 19) :

    You guys were club champs last year not so?

    Care to tell me where the flyhalf for that club is currently playing his rugby???

    (I know, I am being nasty now… ;) )

  • Comment 22, posted at 14.06.11 13:31:44 by Morné Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 22) : But surely you know that Wesley Horse Dunlop is now playing for Tukkies? :)

    Couldn’t even get a Vodacom Cup start for the Sharks…

  • Comment 23, posted at 14.06.11 13:33:36 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 17) : Believe it or not I had heard of Coleman before he started for the Stormers. I still cannot think of who could have been ready to be a frontline Super rugby flyhalf.

  • Comment 24, posted at 14.06.11 13:34:32 by war1 Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 23) :

    Care to take a wager that you will see him in a Bulls shirt sooner rather than later?

  • Comment 25, posted at 14.06.11 13:35:11 by Morné Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 22) :

    Hey I’m agreeing with you! ;-)

  • Comment 26, posted at 14.06.11 13:35:58 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 19) : now that I think about it, Guy Cronje was injured for the duration of the Super 14/Vodacom Cup last year…. that made it very difficult.

    Seems that the Sharks’ flyhalf problems last year weren’t THAT easily solvable. There was really only Monty Dumond and a reluctant Ruan Pienaar in the picture. Even Pienaar was injured for the first part of the season.

    Granted, they should have let Horse step up, but if memory serves, he wasn’t even IN Durban at that stage… played Vodacom Cup for EP last year.

  • Comment 27, posted at 14.06.11 13:37:00 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 19) : This was not a case of standing in til your frontline flyhalf is ready, this WAS a frontline flyhalf that had to be found. With hindsight, the Sharks management should have been better prepared but you can’t just throw a club flyhalf in and expect him to lead his team through a season.

  • Comment 28, posted at 14.06.11 13:37:10 by war1 Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 24) :

    You have?

    I have no idea who he played for in 2010, or at what level.

  • Comment 29, posted at 14.06.11 13:38:49 by Morné Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 25) : he’s already played Vodacom Cup rugby for the Bulls, so no…. not sure I want to bet on something that’s already happened :)

    Wes is an awesome player and fits the Bulls pattern to a T. He’ll emerge as their first-choice CC flyhalf once they lose the Brummer obsession

  • Comment 30, posted at 14.06.11 13:39:07 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 30) :

    Damn, just shows you how slow I am of late!

  • Comment 31, posted at 14.06.11 13:40:46 by Morné Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 28) : Sharks had a freaky bunch of circumstances all come together at once there…

    injuries to Hernandez, Pienaar and Cronje all at the same time, coupled with the Meyer brainfart…

  • Comment 32, posted at 14.06.11 13:41:35 by robdylan Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 28) :

    This Dimitri fella that played for UCT this year played club rugby at False Bay in 2010, he has already been drafted into the WP Vodacom side this year and was it not for an injury, he would have been on a plane to Oz this year in the Super Rugby instead of Rose.

  • Comment 33, posted at 14.06.11 13:42:58 by Morné Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 29) : I hadn’t seen him play before, but I had heard of him. I think he was backup WP under 21 flyhalf last year.

  • Comment 34, posted at 14.06.11 13:43:35 by war1 Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 34) :

    Well I see WP’s called up Dollie again…

    You guys want him?

  • Comment 35, posted at 14.06.11 13:46:57 by Morné Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 32) : Look, it was a horrible situation but the Goode signing was still not one of our most inspired. Also from what I remember Hernandez’s surgery was not compulsory, he could have played that season. He REALLY let us down there.

  • Comment 36, posted at 14.06.11 13:47:08 by war1 Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 31) : I’m in touch with him… lovely guy.

    To be honest, though, I think he was an unused sub in the Bulls’ last two games… so even though he sat on the bench, might not have actually been “capped” yet

  • Comment 37, posted at 14.06.11 13:47:46 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 35) : Does Dollie still count as a young player you guys are backing?

  • Comment 38, posted at 14.06.11 13:48:43 by war1 Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 37) :

    I thought he was massive for Tukkies in the Varsity Cup.

  • Comment 39, posted at 14.06.11 13:49:09 by Morné Reply
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  • @war1 (Comment 38) :

    To be honest, I don’t quite know who in WP rugby is actually backing him…

  • Comment 40, posted at 14.06.11 13:49:55 by Morné Reply
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  • @Morné (Comment 40) : It was a tongue-in-cheek comment anyway.

  • Comment 41, posted at 14.06.11 13:53:33 by war1 Reply
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  • Looks like a very interesting thread this. Too bad I’m so darn busy today! :(

  • Comment 42, posted at 14.06.11 14:00:42 by Ben Reply

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  • I cant see any of the coaches rotating their squads purely for the sake of it. It might be the thing to do but in their positions its win at all costs and that means playing your best available team.

  • Comment 43, posted at 14.06.11 14:01:17 by Salmonoid Reply

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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 43) : It’s a very difficult thing to do. If you rest your key players and win then you’re a genius. If you rest your players and lose then you did not take your opposition seriously.

  • Comment 44, posted at 14.06.11 14:07:06 by war1 Reply
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  • Okay here’s my take on rotation. This is where a coach like Plum has been found wanted. Sure you always want to win and that is why you always prefer to have your best team on the field, or who ever the coach thinks is the best team. You and I won’t necessarily agree with who he’s best team is in his eyes, but anyway that’s besides the point. If we look at the start of the season Plum waited until about 75 minutes before throwing on some unforced subs. That to me showed clearly that he doesn’t really trust the fringe players so to say. Thing is he has shot himself in the back, he knew how long this tournament is going to be and how much rugby everyone would have to play and yet he kept persisting with pretty much the same team. Now at the back end of the comp its quite clear to me that the players are physically and mentally exhausted. That’s my take on it, don’t think I’m being too harsh on Plum here.

  • Comment 45, posted at 14.06.11 14:14:15 by Ben Reply

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  • @Ben (Comment 45) : What irritates me is when we buy a player like jlp and keep him away from the side, rather do not buy him and invest this money in keeping big name players. If we do not rotate him into the squad and use him properly why buy him?

    I would like to see players like jlp used more intelligently becuase there will be a time when we will have to throw him into the team and he may take awhile to gel ,rather have him play some rugby and get used to the way the team plays.

  • Comment 46, posted at 14.06.11 14:30:16 by Talent Reply
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  • @Talent (Comment 46) : To be fair to Plum by the time he bought JLP Lambie haven’t even seen 1 minute of playing FH. He panicked and needed to do something.

    But I completely agree with you about JLP not being rotated wisely. But the same can be said for a few other players, Conrad Hoffman springs to mind.

  • Comment 47, posted at 14.06.11 14:43:25 by Ben Reply

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  • Hoffman is not given fair game time, and his injury was really a we have talent in our youngsters but we hang on to experience, a very short sighted apr ouch…we need to blend our youth with experience…I like the fact that we got joubert…now is the time to play him 12 with jordaan 13…and let go to Terblanch go he is a legend…same rather retain Jacobs and then systematically give who ever game time lineque, pretoruis, hell lambie at 12….and give our young 10 a go…let’s just be more dynamic with our teams growth…we are really setting us up for a big lesson in management…and I can’t keep hearing the stormers…they produce all the talent!!!!we need a new defensive couch!!!

  • Comment 48, posted at 14.06.11 15:18:12 by BoerSeun Reply

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  • @robdylan (Comment 10) : I am in agreement that we shouldn’t throw our youngsters in the deep end, but rather expose them gradually.

    What irks me though is the Sharks are probably more well-positioned than any other local team to bring youngsters through in a structured manner, given the general level of multi-skilled/multi-positional players we have in our squad:

    Van Staden: 1 and 3
    John Smit: 1, 2 and 3
    Burden: 2, and reluctantly, 6, 11 and 13
    Daniel: 6 and 8
    Botes: 6 and 8
    Deysel: 6 and 7
    Alberts: 7 and 8
    Lambie: 10, 12 and 15
    Michalak: 9, 10 and 12
    Potgieter: 10, 12 and 13
    Jacobs: 12, 13 and in a pinch, 10
    Terblanche: 14 and 15
    Pietersen: 11, 14 and 15
    Ndungane: 14, 15, and I’m convinced, 13

    This really means that you could load your bench with youngsters, and still have the means available in the squad to cover almost all positions by shuffling some players around. Even when we lose players to the World Cup squad, we will still be blessed with a huge amount of versatility. So accommodating and exposing youngsters should not be brain surgery.

    Of course, this will only work if Sharks management buy in to the idea of the Currie Cup as a testing ground, and if Plum can get over his unfortunate “give the bench guys 5 minutes at the end” habit.

  • Comment 49, posted at 14.06.11 16:08:51 by Culling Song Reply
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  • Jacobs is not a bad wing either :)

  • Comment 50, posted at 14.06.11 17:18:14 by robdylan Reply
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  • All I can say is DITTO

  • Comment 51, posted at 14.06.11 19:42:07 by JustPlainSHARK Reply

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  • Comment 52, posted at 14.06.11 20:06:18 by KSA Shark © Reply

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  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 52) : That’s the SA Conference Trophy.

  • Comment 53, posted at 14.06.11 20:07:00 by KSA Shark © Reply

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  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 53) : So how is the winner of the SA conference determined.

    Only from log points scored against SA teams or on log position on the conference table with points from results against NZ and Aus also counting?

  • Comment 54, posted at 14.06.11 20:08:32 by KSA Shark © Reply

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