While Sharks coach John Plumtree has been quick to point to his strong squad, with plenty of competition for places, as one of the reasons behind the team’s recent resurgence, there’s one position in particular where a lack of depth is starting to become very worrying indeed.
With the likes of Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, Dale Chadwick, Marius Joubert and Willem Alberts currently unable to even make the match 22, it’s fair to say that most areas are well covered indeed and with names like that waiting in the wings, you can bet whatever you have left over at the end of the month that none of the incumbents is likely to do much “resting on laurels”, in case a poor performance or two sees the coach summarily whip out a replacement of equal calibre.
The dearth of a quality replacement at scrumhalf, though, seems to be having exactly the opposite effect on Charl McLeod and while we’re sure the plucky ex-Wonderboomer is trying his very hardest to rediscover his spark, the reality is that he’s currently a weak link in the side and if Plumtree actually had someone to replace him with, I’m sure he would now do that. The problem is, though – there isn’t anyone. The Sharks tried using Fred Michalak at scrummie earlier in the year and it didn’t work. Likewise, the spate of injuries that have conspired to rob poor Conrad Hoffmann of any chance to establish himself as a form player continued in 2012, with the former WP man ruling himself out of contention ahead of a Super Rugby season that was meant to be his big opportunity. The current incarnation of Conrad Hoffmann struggled to assert himself playing off the bench for the Vodacom Cup side and cannot honestly be seen as a realistic contender to usurp McLeod at this stage.
That leaves Cobus Reinach, a player of immense potential, but who of course still has a fair few rough edges, as one would expect from a player of his youth and inexperience in senior rugby terms. Reinach was pulled in for a handful of games in the Currie Cup last year, but didn’t get anywhere near enough game time to be able to show what he can do, making it quite risky indeed to throw him straight into the Super Rugby cauldron. The reality, though, is that with McLeod the only usable scrumhalf in the current squad, it seems foolish indeed to carry on without at least starting the process of blooding Reinach at this level. What happens if Charl gets injured, for instance? An even better scenario for the Sharks would see Reinach entrusted with a bench spot in Super Rugby now, where he can perhaps add some magic with his formidable (and hereditary) pace late in the game. What’s more, with just a little bit more pressure on his position, we may just start to see the sort of Charl McLeod that we did in 2010.
Remember back then that he was being picked ahead of Rory Kockott and needed to produce a performance each week to justify that selection.Tweet