The Sharks face a tricky away encounter against Free State in the Currie Cup this weekend and while I’m not often one to make bold predictions ahead of a game, let me err from that strategy this week and put this very clearly: if the Sharks play Riaan Viljoen at flyhalf this weekend, they will lose.
Let’s go back a few steps, back before the start of the Currie Cup season where Viljoen impressed all and sundry (this pundit included) with his flyhalf play. Those who recall the Super Rugby campaign will remember that Viljoen also started brightly in that competition, with a few steady performances at fullback, including a very good game in Canberra where he was close to the best player on the park. The famed Viljoen inconsistency set in soon afterwards, though and it wasn’t long before he had not only conceded the number 15 jersey to the far more reliable Louis Ludik, but was, in fact, not even making the match 22.
Viljoen’s flyhalf stint in the Currie Cup was thus, I feel, something of a lifeline thrown to a player who on super Rugby form was probably not much higher in the pecking order than third-choice at fullback and I emphasise again that he started the competition brightly. However, his propensity to take the ball very flat made his quite susceptible against sides with good line speed on defence and in successive games against Free State and Griquas (who share information freely) this vulnerability was indeed exposed. I think it’s fairly safe to say that Viljoen hasn’t had a good game at flyhalf since.
Friday night’s muddy mess was, to me, the final straw and while I definitely feel for the player, who was asked to step back into the flyhalf jersey at the last minute after training at fullback all week, I think it would be in the best interests of both the Sharks AND Riaan Viljoen if somebody else were given a run in the number 10 jersey for the last two matches of the campaign. After all, form aside, it’s the Cheetahs and Griquas who know that man best and both sides have already shown that they have the right strategy in place to neutralise him.
This Currie Cup is all about developing depth for Super Rugby and while John Plumtree has admitted that Cobus Reinach will now be given as much time as possible as a starting scrumhalf to prepare him for a backup role in Super Rugby next year (try work that one out), we desperately need to do the same at flyhalf. If Viljoen is struggling as a pivot in this Currie Cup, he surely cannot be considered in that position for Super Rugby, hence we need to find the next-best flyhalf we have (after Pat Lambie) and get him into that number 10 jersey for the rest of the Currie Cup season.
My feeling is that it’s Meyer Bosman, but I can’t shake off the nagging feeling in the back of my head that we might be quite pleasantly surprised indeed if we were to ask young Fred Zeilinga to step up a level this weekend.
The Sharks, though, need Louis Ludik at fullback, Viljoen on the bench, and somebody else at flyhalf for this weekend’s game.Tweet