There’s been a lot of talk this week about Lions players going on loan to other teams for Super Rugby next year and while far less has yet been confirmed than we’d hoped, that speculation is set to continue.
The Sharks have already snapped up Franco van der Merwe for the 2013 tournament, with at least one website (with generally reliable Lions info) suggesting that prop JC van Rensburg is also on the radar. Contrary to the information that we received previously, Elton Jantjies seems to be leaning towards the Stormers – with a massive offer apparently on the table there – but we’re led to believe that the Sharks are still in the running to lure the phenomenally talented young Jaco Taute to Durban next year.
The question I get asked a lot, though, is why would we want or need him. And why would Taute opt to come to Durban to fight against strong incumbents at both fullback and outside centre, rather than take his chances with either the Bulls or Stormers, where a more obvious starting position could be guaranteed? There’s a lot of talk doing the rounds, of course, much of it spurious, but one thing that does seem to be true is that Taute will make his choice (out of the three offers on the table) next week and that he’ll do so based on which team he feels offers him the best prospect of regular game time in the position that he decides to settle in.
Right now, Taute is about to play his second test at outside centre, but he’s obviously bright enough to know that Frans Steyn and Jean de Villiers will in all likelihood be reinstated as the first-choice centre pair once the former regains fitness. Taute is a lot younger than de Villiers and will back himself, I’m sure, to displace the captain in time, but with fan favourite Zane Kirchner doing no better than holding the fort at fullback, you’d fancy that Taute may just be eyeing the number 15 jersey as a quicker route to consistent tenure in the Bok starting team.
The Sharks, though, are overflowing with fullbacks. Aside from those who seem convinced that Pat Lambie belongs in the last line of defence (and there are many), we also have the likes of Louis Ludik, Riaan Viljoen and the promising, yet sadly underplayed, Gouws Prinsloo on the books. Frans Steyn, lest we forget, has also played a wee bit of footie in the position. If Taute does decide that 15 is where he wants to play, he’d have far less competition if he went to the Cape. In Pretoria, he’d be up against the Bok incumbent, whereas at the Sharks he would need to show that offers more on attack than Ludik does, without compromising on the latter’s truly remarkable defensive abilities.
Don’t get me wrong here – Taute is a world class player and I desperately want the Sharks to get him for next year, if for no other reason than that I think he can turn our already great backline into a truly superb one. Having lost faith in Riaan Viljoen as a Super Rugby option somewhat, I think that we could definitely use Taute in tandem with Ludik as our fullback options, but to me it’s in the number 13 jersey that the young Lion could be most deadly. The Sharks have plenty of options at centre, it’s true, but I can’t shake the feeling that Paul Jordaan, while incredibly talented himself, is not quite ready to be a regular starter at Super Rugby level.
This all depends on Taute, though and where he sees himself. If he wants to be a centre, then the Bulls might be a good option for him, aside from the fact that they are apparently in the final stages of signing a loan agreement with Lionel Mapoe too. Heading to the Stormers would put him directly on a collision course with established Bok centres in Juan de Jongh and Jean de Villiers and while Heyneke Meyer clearly rates Taute ahead of the former, it remains to be seen whether Allister Coetzee would concur. The Sharks, again, would be a sensible destination, but their historical tendency to use versatile players as “utility options” may well count against the Durban union when it comes to wanting to settle in a particular spot.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: Taute hasn’t decided where he’s going to go just yet and is trying his best to concentrate on Saturday’s test. Spare a thought for the kid as he weighs up not only the points I’ve raised above, but presumably hundreds of other factors of which we’re not aware. As far as my information goes, though, any journalist claiming to know with any certainty which way the kid is leaning would be stretching the truth.
It’s a real old puzzle, this one and I’m afraid for the time being we’re just going to have to wait and see.Tweet