John Plumtree yesterday ended much of the speculation that has been doing the rounds when he confirmed Keegan Daniel and Bismarck du Plessis as captain and vice captain respectively for the Sharks Super Rugby campaign. While I feel the Sharks have made the right choices – in fact, the obvious choices – from a squad perspective, I’m a little worried about how this might translate into on-field leadership.
Let’s not beat around the bush – the Sharks are blessed with much depth at forward and while few within the squad can boast much senior captaincy experience, the capacity and propensity to lead runs much deeper than just Daniel and du Plessis. The latter, in fact, might consider himself reasonably fortunate to leapfrog a group of players including Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel, Alistair Hargreaves, Jacques Botes and Ross Skeate, all of whom have more experience in captaining sides than he does.
Not, I must stress, that I feel Bismarck is a poor choice; quite the opposite, in fact. While many of the Sharks could be accused of being a wee bit too laid-back in their approach, there is absolutely no question of Bismarck suffering from a lack of desire and hunger to succeed. Everything he does is done at full pace and with maximum effort and the example he sets to those around him can only server to lift and inspire. Hearing Plumtree talk about the increased emphasis on Bismarck’s tactical contributions to the team is also most encouraging.
The forwards will be fine, in short, provided Daniel and du Plessis manage to come to an arrangement between them that leaves no doubt in the minds of the other players as to the pecking order between them. My concern relates to the backs. With so much of the drive and thrust coming from those up-front, who will be tasked with steering a back division that has, frankly, looked rudderless for the last few seasons? Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that Stefan Terblanche, who despite his many failings never shirked his duties as a leader, is no longer around.
When casting the eye over the backs, the options seem few and far between. Those in the know have identified the lack of a “talker” amongst the backs as an issue ever since the departure of Andries Strauss – with Brad Barritt performing this vital role before him – with the concern that there is no shortage of strong silent types in the ranks. While the likes of Marius Joubert, JP Pietersen, Odwa Ndungane and Riaan Viljoen have all been around the block many times (in Joubert’s case, perhaps too many) I think it’s fair to say that none of them has ever really stood out as an obvious captaincy candidate yet.
The obvious solution, it would seem, is to give Pat Lambie the job and let him get on with it. When he is at flyhalf (or even when he isn’t, assuming he’ll be rotated with Fred Michalak, in which case I feel he should still be picked at centre) he should be clearly designated as backline captain and told to call the shots. Just as it’s vitally important for the forwards to know who to turn to on the field, it’s perhaps even more vital that the backs know who will be running their (oft-overlooked) show and I can think of no better candidate than the young man from Michaelhouse who tends to make our whole team look that much classier every time he takes the field.Tweet