So, let’s start off by awarding to “tonsil of the week” prize to Captain Keegan… it seems that he was the one responsible for the tackle that led to Beast Mtawarira’s broken ankle. Keep up the good work, Skipper! (Only kidding Keegs, we’re sure it was an accident)
So, just to catch up, then, the popular Beast suffered a freak training-ground injury on Friday morning and has been ruled out for at least three months, but possibly up to four, according to the latest from the team doctor. In short, it’s going to be a long time before we see anything of Beast and it’s best to assume that he won’t be around for most of the Super Rugby season.
That, of course, leaves the Sharks with a problem, one made worse because they decided a few weeks back to release their de facto backup at loosehead, Eugene van Staden, to Biarritz for a tidy transfer fee. Not, it must be said, that we disagree with this decision. Van Staden, as a tighthead, was standing in the way of a lot of young home-grown number 3s and it made perfect sense to get some money for him, while at the same time bumping Wors Herbst and Julz Redelinghuys up the pecking order. Remember that we still have Nick Schonert, Allan Dell and Maks van Dyk bubbling under as tighthead options. In short, this position is SORTED and it was right to let van Staden leave.
The problem is, Eugene was a more-than-handy loosehead too and with him, Dale Chadwick and the Beat in tow, the Sharks had more than enough depth at 1. Problem now is, the only player who has any relevant experience in that position is Chadwick. Not, it must be said, that we think there’s anything wrong with Dale. The view here is completely consistent with what we’ve been saying all along and with Beast out of the picture, Dale becomes the de facto first choice loosehead prop – that’s as it should be. The young man will have to step up, but I’m sure he will.
The issue, then, is one of backup, because only a fool goes into a Super Rugby season without adequate backup in any position. If Dale goes down, or gets tired, or can’t play for whatever other reason, who then wears the number 1 jersey? There are two approaches here.
The first is to back the guys within the squad. All three of Jannie du Plessis, Herbst and Redelinghuys can carry their own in the scrumming department on either side of the hooker. With four props in the setup, you’ll probably be okay numbers wise. The problem I have with this approach, though, is that loosehead is about so much more than just scrumming. Your typical tighthead, quite honestly, falls far short of the required standards when it comes to ball carrying, work rate and positional play when asked to switch over to the left hand side. The question, to my mind, is not so much whether Jannie, Wors and Julz can cope at loosehead – it’s whether they can thrive there. There is an additional possibility, which is using Kyle Cooper at loosehead – he’s strong enough and has all the right physical attributes, but since he’s never played at prop at all, this has to be looked at as a more long-term solution. Again, not that I think it’s a bad move to try Coops at 1… it’s just that he’s unlikely to be a realistic option there during this Super Rugby campaign.
The other option is to find a replacement for Beast, if such a thing actually exists. If it’s to be done, it needs to be done in the right way; it must be a temporary move and it must be done so as to provide backup for Chadwick, not a replacement for Chadwick. Only if these two criteria can be met will I endorse such a course of action. Don’t be fooled, though, the Sharks started picking up the phone the moment Beast went down and while John Plumtree will certainly look at his options within the squad when they play trials on Friday, I’m sure that discussions are already taking place to try and find a replacement from outside of the province.
It’s premature to mention any names, though… the fact is, there’s very little quality out there at the moment anyway, particularly not on such short notice. Let’s see who the Sharks manage to line up here, but it may well prove to be a case of biting the bullet and making do with what we’ve got. There’s no point in handing game time to a journeyman if we could use one of our youngsters instead.Tweet