Backline changes – not popular in my book

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 18 Sep 2014 at 12:45
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

While I’ll not slate the Sharks for the one change to the starting pack this week, I have to raise my voice against the decision to once again fiddle with the backs, to no good purpose.

Stephan Lewies would have started in an unchanged 8 had it not been for his late withdrawal. Had he been fit to start, the Sharks would have hit the ground running with the same pack that performed well enough last week. JC Astle, Franco Marais and Thomas du Toit were set to come onto the bench in the only changes to the forward unit – Astle now find himself starting, with Johan Meyer spared the axe. Thomas du Toit has a toe injury which hasn’t come right either, meaning another week for Danie Mienie. All a little unfortunate, but unavoidable.

Injuries happen. We move on.

Some continuity is a good thing…

I’m very pleased that the Sharks retained the same guys at 9, 10 and 12 this week (despite the misgivings of my learned friend Morne). I have had a lot to say about all three of them, but Conrad Hoffmann, in particular, stood up and impressed the socks off me last week. Lionel Cronje and Andre Esterhuizen both made mistakes in abundance against the Cheetahs, but both at the same time looked as though they had a plan in mind.

Regular readers will know that I am unashamedly a Fred Zeilinga man (and a Heimar Williams man too, for that matter) but endorse the decision, all the same, to persevere with Cronje given Zeilinga’s poor start to the season. Fred is a thorny issue at the moment. I do believe he is our future at flyhalf, but I also believe he’s in a proper second-season slump and needs to learn from his mistakes and come back a better player.

Esterhuizen is big, strong and direct. Sure, he needs to work on catching and passing, but he gives our backline much-needed direction at 12, unlike Paul Jordaan who tends to wander all over the show en route to dying with the ball.

…but why, oh why, disrupt the centre pair?

I can’t agree with the decision to move S’bura Sithole to wing. S’bura has been our main (nay, only) strike runner and has consistently looked the part at 13. Sure, he also needs to work on various aspects, foremost being ball retention and looking for support, but we owe it ourselves (and to him) to let him settle in the position in which he’s shown the most promise. I do not think S’bura is anywhere near as effective at wing and by picking him there, we weaken our backline.

Paul Jordaan is a fantastic player who is not in good form and if anything, I would argue that his skillset is far more suited to a role at wing than it is to outside centre anyway. I don’t have any major problem with the decision to restore him to the starting team after a week off, but it should be Jordaan at wing this week, with S’bura given the opportunity to increase his understanding with Esterhuizen. That could be a fantastic centre pairing for us going forward and it’s really rather shortsighted to not keep them together.

Welcome back Lwazi – and SP too!

I must say, I enjoyed Lwazi Mvovo at fullback in Super Rugby and given that we seem hell-bent on a merry-go-round in the fifteen jersey anyway, would have been tempted to pick him there, with Chavhanga at wing. All the same, it’s just awesome to have him in the team and with Lwazi GAGGING for some game time, we expect to see him involved in as much play as he can possibly be. SP Marais has served out his time and certainly looked better against the Cheetahs (albeit at wing, not fullback) so I’m prepared to give him another go, although I wonder what purpose it served having first Jaco van Tonder, then Tim Swiel, in the starting team for one game each. There’s too much chopping and changing in the back three for my liking and I can’t work out why it’s necessary.

Let’s hope we don’t end up regretting the absence of Zeilinga on the bench; after all, since Swiel now seems to be the young fullback-elect, I can’t really see the logic in asking him to cover flyhalf too.


  • Sheet Fred’s not even on the bench?!? That’s just dumb!

  • Comment 1, posted at 18.09.14 12:49:56 by PTAShark Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    DragnipurSuper Rugby player
  • I don’t have the energy to try to understand any more.

    Go Sharks!

  • Comment 2, posted at 18.09.14 13:00:11 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • Just trying to provide some insight here. And yes our assessments of players will differ to my perceived coaches asesssments. Firstly the pack they wanted continuity so only injury enforced sub. In the backline..enough promise was showed by Hoffman and Cronje to warrant another start (Zeilinga has been very poor this year and needs to prove at practices why he should be there). The coaches have seemed to progress to a more physical 12 hence Esterhuizen (think it would have been Williams barring injury). The coaches value Jordaan over Sithole as a centre, rightly or wrongly they do! And there is sum justification as Sithole has tended to run solo straight at defenders of late, where as they believe Jordaan will try run into the space. Neither of them pass well. Lastly they still have faith that Swiel has the game breaking ability and have shown confidence in him by picking him on the bench. So yes we may not all agree…but i feel thats a little insight into their thinking

  • Comment 3, posted at 18.09.14 13:00:58 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
  • @SheldonK (Comment 3) : I guess S’bura v jordaan at 13 is a subjective choice and I’m on team Sithole.

    I do hear what you say about his tendency to seek contact – then again, he is a very strong guy and that does work for him. I think he needs to work on two things:

    1) Leg drive in contact
    2) Not taking contact quite to square on (giving him more options in terms of placing or offloading)

    The argument about neither being good passers is valid. I think my point here is that I don’t see Jordaan as good enough as a 13 to warrant making the change. To me, he’s a straight-line speed merchant and not much else at the moment.

    Would love to be proved wrong, in this as in most other things.

  • Comment 4, posted at 18.09.14 13:05:18 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
    robdylanHead Coach
  • Paul was good in Superugby – he even had a call-up to the National side. So maybe he needs a another chance at 13, playing off the big guy.

  • Comment 5, posted at 18.09.14 13:05:29 by bokbok Reply

    bokbokSuper Rugby player
  • @bokbok (Comment 5) :
    Same is true of Sithole?

    @SheldonK (Comment 3) :
    Lets leave opinions out then. What isnt subjective is that we lack continuity in the backline and Sithole has been the 13 in most games – so purely based on continuity, he should be left there.

    In addition, he was pretty damn effective outside Cronje and Esterhuizen last night, and the straight running resulted in a good try.

  • Comment 6, posted at 18.09.14 13:09:31 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @robdylan (Comment 4) : Rob for me personally i think they both have good qualities to be a good 13 but i just feel they possibly arent getting the right coaching or instructions of what they should be trying to do in that position. I also feel that as they both attacking threats i see no reason why they can continually swap roles at 13 and wing, especially on attack…with probably Jordaan at wing on defense as he has a better kicking game. The Sharks are so predictable on attack and but we have wings such as Mvovo and Sithole that can easily slot into the 13 channel on attack with Jordaan moving out occassionally it would lead to unpredictability and i think cause defenses to think twice about rushing up etc

  • Comment 7, posted at 18.09.14 13:10:34 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 6) : Last night? At practice?

  • Comment 8, posted at 18.09.14 13:13:49 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
  • Maybe this is Fred’s week away from the game.

    SP, Jordaan Fred … all badly out of form by their standards.

  • Comment 9, posted at 18.09.14 13:13:52 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    LetgoAssistant coach
  • @SheldonK (Comment 8) :
    Exactly. Now that you mention it, he also scored a similar try last week.

  • Comment 10, posted at 18.09.14 13:15:27 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • I don’t think I mind the look of that backline.

    On the Sbura, Jordaan at 13 argument…Sbura is playing very well but hell he loses the ball often in the tackle and doesn’t look to offload much either.

    Would have liked to have seen Ungerer in there as well.

  • Comment 11, posted at 18.09.14 13:15:40 by John Galt Reply

    John GaltCurrie Cup player
  • @Big Fish (Comment 6) :

    Though this might not be as objective, I believe it has been confirmed that Sithole is a better 13 than 14, Jordaan a better 13 tan 12, but since we already know Sithole’s better position is 13, why not try Jordaan at wing, to see if he can’t do better there? It’s going to have to be either Jordaan or Sithole at 13 during SR, but Mvovo can move to 15 making space for one of them on the wing – we haven’t determined which are better at wing yet, while I think they are pretty even (with different strengths) at 13.

    So play Jordaan at 14 purely for comparative value.

    The pecking order at 12, 13, 11/14

    12 Steyn, then probably Andre/Heimar and only then Jordaan
    13 Jordaan/Sithole
    Wings JPP/ Mvovo, Sithole, Odwa …. Jordaan???

  • Comment 12, posted at 18.09.14 13:22:00 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    LetgoAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 10) : Was Jordaan injured and thats why Sithole running at 13 at practice? I mean thats jus bad coaching to run guys at practice in diff positions and then wonder why they all look clueless on a Saturday. And lets be realistic…yes Sithole does run hard and straight but his try vs Cheetahs was more their horrible defending than him doing anything great.

  • Comment 13, posted at 18.09.14 13:23:26 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
  • @Letgo (Comment 12) :
    I hear you.

    My gripe is that we now have 2 13′s who can’t focus on the position: Jordaan at 12/13 and Sithole at 13/14.

  • Comment 14, posted at 18.09.14 13:24:57 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • The dog chasing its tail….round and round we go :???:

  • Comment 15, posted at 18.09.14 13:25:33 by FireTheLooser Reply

    Assistant coach
  • @SheldonK (Comment 13) :
    I was extracting the urine about last night bud…

  • Comment 16, posted at 18.09.14 13:27:19 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @John Galt (Comment 11) :

    Jordaan is also a massive culprit when it comes to losing the ball in contact.

  • Comment 17, posted at 18.09.14 13:28:08 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    LetgoAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 16) : Ah fair enough haha

  • Comment 18, posted at 18.09.14 13:29:10 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 14) :

    Doesn’t make sense really.

    I thought they would play Heimar/Andre at 12 this whole CC, since Paul would clearly not be the preferred player at 12 next year. As long as Steyn is healthy he would play elsewhere. This Jordaan/Sithole combo was IMO only used because we had to play Steyn at 10 and JW didn’t trust another 12 to do the job… also, I think since Steyn still played very much like a 12 from first receiver, the Jordaan at 12 Sithole at 13 worked much better than it ever would with another smaller player on their inside.

  • Comment 19, posted at 18.09.14 13:31:40 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    LetgoAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 14) : @Letgo (Comment 19) :

    If you think about it a better permanent option with the Jordaan/Sithole combo would be putting Sithole at 12. He is much more direct than Jordaan, while Jordaan tends to search for gaps. Sithole would just have to work on his ofloading.

  • Comment 20, posted at 18.09.14 13:35:38 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    LetgoAssistant coach
  • @Letgo (Comment 20) :
    Im not a fan to be honest. It would be a throwback to the Straueli days with Halstead at centre, and I think it would be even more ineffective nowadays.

    Sithole definitely needs to be coached to run better into space so as to use the speed that he has previously used so well in Sevens, but on the whole he is a perfect physical specimen for the 13 role.

    Esterhuizen and Steyn are good options at 12.

  • Comment 21, posted at 18.09.14 13:39:30 by Big Fish Reply
    Big FishAssistant coach
  • @Big Fish (Comment 21) :

    I agree, just thought if you have to go the Jordaan/Sithole center pairing route then Sithole is probably more suited to 12 – although I think Jordaan was always seen more as a creative 12 – Matt Gitau or Kurtley Beale, but never really managed to live up to those expectations. His vision is good, but his control of the ball is awful.

    That’s why neither of them would make a good 12 and both still need a lot of work at 13.

  • Comment 22, posted at 18.09.14 13:49:00 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    LetgoAssistant coach
  • Maybe someone should go and trawl the blogs and get a general consensus, of how the fans feel about this gross mismanagement of what was the most feared SA team in 2013 and beginning of 2014. Sharks fans have been let down by this wishy-washy out of their depth coaching team and the lack of foresight of Sharks management. From most feared team to laughing stock. From the team with the most depth in the front row to red lights flashing every single week! The sharks reputation is in tatters. We are now being smacked from pillar to post by barely premier league teams not to mention the premier league teams who couldn’t even get it up for the super 15. How much further must this franchise fall? I wish there was a way to get fan’s views through to the management of the sharks.

  • Comment 23, posted at 18.09.14 14:15:26 by coolfusion Reply

    coolfusionTeam captain
  • @SheldonK (Comment 13) : have you seen any semblence of a plan or strategy from BMH this whole season? he is playing every week by ear and standing at the ready with excuses and flimsy “spin” tactics or what he calls the positives he takes from the game.

  • Comment 24, posted at 18.09.14 14:18:57 by coolfusion Reply

    coolfusionTeam captain
  • @Letgo (Comment 12) : The rate you okes are shifting Jordaan he will soon be carrying ackle bags too…. From 13 to 12, 12, to 13, 13, to wing, wing to winged lol

  • Comment 25, posted at 18.09.14 14:21:31 by KingCheetah Reply

    KingCheetahTeam captain
  • @coolfusion (Comment 24) : I think he is pretty satisfied twhen he has 15 guys on the field all in the same kit kinda playing in the same direction each half! Job done

  • Comment 26, posted at 18.09.14 14:31:37 by SheldonK Reply

    SheldonKAssistant coach
  • @KingCheetah (Comment 25) :

    Yah, maybe it’s time to decide if he’s not good enough to be on the field in one position, he might not be good enough in another.

    He’s been good for the Sharks, but I would rate his year so far pretty average, including SR (he loses the ball way to much, especially for a guy that’s not willing to pass).

  • Comment 27, posted at 18.09.14 15:03:52 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    LetgoAssistant coach
  • @KingCheetah (Comment 25) : boet if he could catch a ball it would be a totally different story but at this rate he will struggle to catch a cold.

  • Comment 28, posted at 18.09.14 16:31:11 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    JDAssistant coach
  • @Letgo (Comment 17) : fuck he loses the ball even without contact!!!!!!

  • Comment 29, posted at 18.09.14 16:34:07 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    JDAssistant coach
  • The battle for no 13 is a good battle to have. Personally I think Jordaan has more potential for X factor in the position. The pity in my view is that neither looks comfortable at 12 as they have the raw speed and strength to make a good centre pairing.

  • Comment 30, posted at 19.09.14 03:41:50 by MikeSebMatt Reply

    MikeSebMattCurrie Cup player
  • its good too rotait. the centers. too see who should play. wht who . lets say. sithole n steyne . ESTERHUISEN N JORDAAN THATS WHAT I THINK ITS ABOUT

  • Comment 31, posted at 19.09.14 18:18:46 by Justin Koelman Reply

    Vodacom Cup player
  • @MikeSebMatt (Comment 30) : we don’t need either of them to play 12 Sharks have good 12 in Heimar, Andrê and Steyn so no need for them to play 12.

  • Comment 32, posted at 21.09.14 17:07:58 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    JDAssistant coach

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