Richard Ferguson

The weight of the World Cup


Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :All Blacks, Original Content, RWC 2015, Springboks, Wallabies on 16 Jul 2015 at 09:41
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The weight of the World Cup must weigh heavy on the minds of the Southern Hemisphere coaches if one looks at the teams selected to take part in the first round of the Rugby Championship this weekend.

I mentioned in an earlier article that Rugby World Cups really excite me, and having the chance to see three of the front runners to take that title in action this weekend already, makes me take note of the teams selected. And to be frank, I was quite surprised.

Without even going into much depth and looking just at the three flyhalves selected for this weekend, you see that the coaches have opted to go against the form book in most cases. The Boks are starting with Handre Pollard, and while he may not have had the best Super Rugby season, he is probably the most in form of those in the squad, with Lambie not having played much and Steyn coming off a season in France. I must add that I have done some research on Steyn’s season in France, and although he started poorly, he ended up being one of the star players for Stade Francais, but I digress.

Looking at the opposition for this weekend, Michael Cheika has opted to go for Quade Cooper. Now, the Reds had a woeful season in Super Rugby, and while that may have been due to Cooper missing a large part of the season, the fact remains that he has shown very little of the Quade we know so far this year. The same can be said about his half back partner, Will Genia. His selection completely floored me and the fact that Nic White was completely omitted from the squad had me wondering what exactly these coaches are thinking.

I am a big fan of All Black rugby, and even though I am a Springbok fan through and through, there is not much better than an All Black team at full flight. The way the Hurricanes and the Highlanders finished the Super Rugby season has me anxiously waiting to see what they come up with against Argentina. But looking at the team they have selected, I am baffled to see that the form player of the season for the Hurricanes, Beauden Barrett, not even featuring in the match 23. Dan Carter, the legend that he is, takes up the pivotal spot with Colin Slade his backup, but again I draw your attention to the fact that neither of these two actually have any form going for them.

The point I am trying to make is that is seems that coaches seem to lose focus in the build up of the massive event that is the World Cup. Combinations are tried and players are selected that have been in the plans for the fours years building up to the World Cup, but the simple principle of selecting form players has gone out the window.

Now there will be plenty arguing that Dan Carter is the best flyhalf in the world and he has earned his spot in the starting team, and I agree to a certain extent. But we are mere months away from the biggest prize in World Rugby, surely now is the time to put your form players together and build those combinations with the limited time available.



62 Comments

  • Good point…I had just looked at the All Black team selected and was about to write a comment on another thread about this…but it fits perfectly here:
    - A lot of guys have been very critical of HM and his selections for this weekend, making the assertiin that

  • Comment 1, posted at 16.07.15 09:45:50 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Good point…I had just looked at the All Black team selected and was about to write a comment on another thread about this…but it fits perfectly here:
    - A lot of guys have been very critical of HM and his selections for this weekend, making the assertion that he is not picking the form guys, as the All Blacks obviously would! He is also picking guys out of position as the All Blacks would never do!
    - But actually looking at the All Black side picked, you see exactly the same tendencies as HM has shown: Nonu and SBW picked at centre (both are inside centres and one of them has to play out of position – do I detect some testing of options?); Dagg (who is clearly not the form player) is picked ahead of Ben Smith (who clearly is the form player); Carter picked ahead of two form flyhalves in Sopoaga and Barrett; Aaron Smith not even in the match day 23; Dane Coles not in the match day 23; an old, out of form back row keeping out all the form loosies of this Super rugby tourney.

    It looks like either the All Black management is worse than the Boks at picking the right guys…or these coaches all think something many of us so obviously don’t: Experience will matter at this world cup…and that experience must be balanced with form, not chucked out at the expense of it.
    We will see…

  • Comment 2, posted at 16.07.15 09:55:43 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Oops…sorry about that first post…I mistakenly pressed the “Submit Comment” button when I was trying to correct a spelling mistake!

  • Comment 3, posted at 16.07.15 09:57:01 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Great having you back writing articles, Rich. Looking forward to seeing more international and WC news.

  • Comment 4, posted at 16.07.15 10:06:13 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Great article and we are quick to criticize HM but this seems to be the trend with all the teams.

  • Comment 5, posted at 16.07.15 10:08:17 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Well, when the AB’s revert to picking same-old same-old, or playing out of form players ahead of form players, you’d still expect them to win 98% of the time….they aren’t doing anything that hasn’t given them success in the past.

    Can we say the same about the Boks (and HM)?

  • Comment 6, posted at 16.07.15 10:21:21 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @Pokkel (Comment 4) :
    @Pokkel (Comment 5) :

    Thanks…

    But just to be clear – the point of the article was in no way directed at defending Meyer. It comes down to the fact that coaches seem to lose their shit the closer we get to the World Cup.

  • Comment 7, posted at 16.07.15 10:21:48 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 5) : I suspect Meyer will save himself a lot of criticism by simply thinking carefully about how he wants to say something before going into the reasoning behind his selections. I’m sure it’s all justifiable in his mind but he communicates it fairly poorly more often than not and also comes across a little too defensive at times. He’s certainly not the first Bok coach to suffer from foot-in-mouth disease – you would have thought that someone within the Bok camp has picked up on this trend by now.

  • Comment 8, posted at 16.07.15 10:44:32 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 2) : The All Blacks are resting a number of their key Hurricanes and Highlanders players to give them an extra week rest after the SR final

  • Comment 9, posted at 16.07.15 10:54:50 by Baylion Reply

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  • @Baylion (Comment 9) : Geez….their able to field a team like this, whilst still being able to rest the players from the top two SR teams :shock:

    That’s rather disconcerting.

  • Comment 10, posted at 16.07.15 10:58:59 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 10) : Look who they are resting (not all first choice)

    Dan Coles, Ben Franks, Victor Vito, Aaron Smith, Beauden Barrett, Lima Sopoaga, Malakai Fekitoa, Conrad smith, Julian Savea, Ben Smith

  • Comment 11, posted at 16.07.15 11:02:43 by Baylion Reply

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  • @Baylion (Comment 11) : Two names on there were the only reason why the Highlanders won:

    Aaron Smith and (to a lesser extent) Ben Smith.

  • Comment 12, posted at 16.07.15 11:09:40 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • I’m not that surprised with the Beauden Barrett omission. He was pretty average in the semi and final.

  • Comment 13, posted at 16.07.15 11:18:38 by Ben Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 4) : Seconded.

  • Comment 14, posted at 16.07.15 11:21:08 by Ben Reply
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  • As the saying goes : Form is temporary, Class is permanent. So yes there is merit in selecting some form players but players with proven ability under pressure def also need to be picked, especially in a World Cup where its not just a once off test that means little in the greater scheme of things.So using a stupid example (and im not saying this is the case at all) De Allende has been very good in Super rugby and the friendly game so is def a form player…how that form will translate when the big bright lights of the world cup are on him…well nobody really knows. What we do know is that someone like Frans Steyn thrives in those conditions. So food for thought when thinking about selections in a world cup year

  • Comment 15, posted at 16.07.15 12:26:12 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @SheldonK (Comment 15) : That is my point…

  • Comment 16, posted at 16.07.15 12:31:43 by pastorshark Reply
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  • Imagine if form players got picked from 2012…then we would have more than 20 odd players with experience? :twisted:

  • Comment 17, posted at 16.07.15 13:02:20 by BarendL Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 15) :

    Yeah look, you will note that I agree with that thinking to a certain degree in the article.

    Yes class is permanent and we know what we have in the experienced players, but using your example – Would you seriously throw Frans Steyn into this team, had he been fit, to play against the Aussies with the year that he has had?

    Taking your point a little further, are you then saying we should play Morne Steyn at pivot because he has done it before and lets be honest, he is the best goal kicker we have under pressure..

    Similarly, Jacque Fourie is the self appointed Greatest Centre in the World, and also does well when the big occasion comes around, do we make space for him as well?

    Its not an invalid argument and I hear what you are saying Shaeldon, my point is simply that there needs to be a line where you say enough is enough and go with someone else.. Someone who is playing with confidence..

  • Comment 18, posted at 16.07.15 13:05:06 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 15) : Class is permanent,but only if there is healthy competition for places in the side,reckon JPP would have pulled finger if Sithole relegated him to the bench for example,but knowing you are picked automatically makes that bad form the new standard.

  • Comment 19, posted at 16.07.15 13:05:32 by BarendL Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 18) : @BarendL (Comment 19) : No there definitely needs to be a balance between form players and the “classy” players. And in effective thats what coaching at that level is mostly about…getting the player mix correct and then game plan. At that level if you trying to coach skills you wasting your time. In terms of the Frans Steyn/ Morne Steyn example….id pick Frans Setyn in the squad if he shows prior to RWC he is fit and able to play 80min. Morne Steyn also def in the squad. Id also probably include him on the bench in games i know will possibly be tight ones. That is assuming Pollard/Lambie’s goal kicking isnt going well. Also both Pollard/Lambie are fairly versatile so id pick say Pollard and Steyn on the bench…some may say a luxury…id say id rather have that luxury than say Mvovo on the bench when the game is 12 all with 10min to play and its pissing with rain…

  • Comment 20, posted at 16.07.15 13:18:55 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @SheldonK (Comment 20) : On a heavy pitch I would also actually have Morne ahead of Pollard.To me you need to give guys opportunities to gain experience,someone like HM is piss poor in that regard,after 4 years we are ending up with alot of players gaining 20 odd caps,but that doens’t mean alot seeing that 20 caps with 10min stints doesn’t count for much experience gained.Jpp is a classy player,he got selected at 13 from last year,then our beloved team does the same the whole SR,now he gets selected at 14 again,this whole season he could have spent at 14 regaining his form,Sithole could have blossomed into a world class 13,now you just sit with 2 players low on form instead of 2 classy in form players.

  • Comment 21, posted at 16.07.15 13:28:33 by BarendL Reply
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  • @BarendL (Comment 21) : Yes i agree that not much was done to develop 3 players in each position over the last 4 years, too much reliance on 1 guy. However, to try and catch up and breed guys now is a bit too late. So he has to take the guy thats played last 4 years and supplement him with a form player even if very little experience. In terms of selecting guys in the positions they play for their provinces…its a tricky one that. Firstly coaches change their minds about where they wish to play a guy and in what combo with others. Also provincial coaches have their own goals/targets and players so will use the guys how best they see fit which may and probably is diff to the national coach. If guys think the national coach must dictate to provincial coaches where players must play then you are dreaming as the provincial coach has to live or die by his decisions, just becos the national coach wants a guy to play in a certain position wont save provincial guys job.

  • Comment 22, posted at 16.07.15 13:39:51 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @BarendL (Comment 21) : Also lets remember in days gone by the Bok side remained the same until such time as a guy, through his provincial performances, replaced the incumbent. There would be a big news write up about the new guy and also and article thanking the guy being dropped for his services to the Boks etc. Yes that was amateur era but the idea that every good player must get a Bok chance was not even a thought then and i think it still has merit. Just because guys have a good game or 3 means they must play a game for the Boks.

  • Comment 23, posted at 16.07.15 13:45:08 by SheldonK Reply

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  • I don’t buy the form vs class argument. For me, if a player has been consistently the best in a certain position for the current season (preferably more than 1 season), I would want him to play for the boks. Saying a player has “class” goes hand in hand with playing guys on reputation. yes JPP (to use someone as an example) might have class, but this entire season he has been piss poor, and does not deserve to play for the boks at the moment. Now HM keeps playing him, denying someone else the opportunity to gain experience, in the hope that somehow the bok jersey is miraculously going to get him back on form? haibo

  • Comment 24, posted at 16.07.15 13:45:26 by Leeubok Reply

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  • @Leeubok (Comment 24) : Hmm ok using JPP as an example…who would the form player be that you play in his place?

  • Comment 25, posted at 16.07.15 13:51:57 by SheldonK Reply

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  • Ok, I would go with Ruan Combrinck. But seeing that I may be a bit biased, even someone like hougie. Or even Mapoe. Heck, it won’t be difficult to find a wing that’s playing better rugby than JPP at the moment!

  • Comment 26, posted at 16.07.15 13:54:08 by Leeubok Reply

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  • http://www.planetrugby.com/story/0,25883,3551_62880,00.html Looks like we’ll be getting Matt Stevens back after the World Cup. He’s just a temporary cover while frontline players are away.

  • Comment 27, posted at 16.07.15 13:57:55 by ChrisS Reply
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  • @Leeubok (Comment 26) : Mapoe didnt play much on the wing so if u selecting a guy on hi wing play he cant factor in then. Hougie yes possibly, although i think HM is concerned with a lot of oppositon picking big tall wingers so he needed someone with a bit of beef defensively. Combrinck had a few decent games on attack- defense still suspect. And i dont think he ha enough good games to replace and established and proven guy. HM is giving JPP the benefit of the doubt and thats fine with me. A couple good minutes does not a Bok make.

  • Comment 28, posted at 16.07.15 14:15:25 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @ChrisS (Comment 27) : Nooooooooo… :)

  • Comment 29, posted at 16.07.15 14:15:29 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 28) : I agree with you…

  • Comment 30, posted at 16.07.15 14:16:30 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @SheldonK (Comment 28) : I can’t remember Combrinck having any issues on defence, but ok. He’s been consistently good the last 2 seasons, more so this year. He’s also a good goal kicker, and if you’re looking for some beef, he has enough of it! JPP played centre all season long, so HM picking him on the wing is also out of position. Yes I know he is actually a wing (or used to be). And it’s not like JPP is the world’s best defender either.. As for Mapoe, HM has no issue with playing okes out of position, does he?
    Anyways, I was just using JPP as an example of a “classy” player that’s down on form. I could’ve easily said Jannie or beast too. Although I don’t think Jannie and class can be used in the same sentence…

  • Comment 31, posted at 16.07.15 14:22:20 by Leeubok Reply

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  • @SheldonK (Comment 22) : Just keep in mind that JP was shifted to 13 by HM last year,so I would put money on it that he asked the Sharks to play him there this season,only for HM himself not to choose him there,instead going with a FB?All this was probably done because of his Jacque Fourie plan?

  • Comment 32, posted at 16.07.15 14:24:03 by BarendL Reply
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  • @Leeubok (Comment 31) : Wow…

  • Comment 33, posted at 16.07.15 14:35:31 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @BarendL (Comment 32) : I think HM had a change of mind regarding the 13 position to be honest..hence the about turn on Fourie and JPP back to wing. Teams were playing big 13s…think North- Wales, Kurindrani- Aussies etc. Now teams have shifted their larger players to the wings with more creative yet good defensive players at 13. So hence the JPP back to wing. Again im speculating but seems reasonable. Also bear in mind i think he is looking to play either JDV or Serfontein as his first choice 13.

  • Comment 34, posted at 16.07.15 14:35:54 by SheldonK Reply

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  • @SheldonK (Comment 34) : And thats exactly why the boks under HM wont get far….he follows what other teams does instead of leading with a gameplan/vision or whatever that other teams would want to copy.But anyway,hope we atleast get a great Test this weekend although I think the Aussies would win…comfortably I reckon :twisted:

  • Comment 35, posted at 16.07.15 14:39:56 by BarendL Reply
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  • A lot of sweeping statements being made on this thread. I’m glad we have so many rugby geniuses here… :mrgreen: I am out of my depth and will just watch what happens on Saturday and in the weeks to come…

  • Comment 36, posted at 16.07.15 14:46:40 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 2) : Aaron Smith not even in the match day squad? This guy must be the best 9 in the world at the moment.

  • Comment 37, posted at 16.07.15 15:28:38 by Bokhoring Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 36) : :lol:

  • Comment 38, posted at 16.07.15 15:37:59 by BarendL Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 36) : I would probably be the best coach EVER!hahahaha,my Bok side would unite a continent! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 39, posted at 16.07.15 15:41:57 by BarendL Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 36) : As Bok supporters, we expect the best, and until we have a coach able to produce that, most of us will weigh in with our own view on how things should be done….think of HM as our president, and the Boks as our country – you get the picture :twisted:

  • Comment 40, posted at 16.07.15 15:55:42 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @Bokhoring (Comment 37) : @Baylion (Comment 9) : Think he’s being rested.

  • Comment 41, posted at 16.07.15 16:20:11 by Ben Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 41) : Makes sense

  • Comment 42, posted at 16.07.15 16:36:08 by Bokhoring Reply
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  • @BarendL (Comment 39) : :lol: :mrgreen:

  • Comment 43, posted at 16.07.15 17:01:03 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 40) : Oh, I’m all for wading in with comment, even if we had the best coach ever! It’s just that any explanation of why HM does something is rejected in favour of the argument that he is an idiot, while any attempt by Steve Hansen to do exactly what HM is doing is accepted as the way things should be done. I just don’t buy that! I may not agree with everything that HM does (and I certainly don’t!) but I at least understand that he is the guy in the job and he does sometimes have valid reasons to see it differently to what I do! Other than that…wade away… :mrgreen:

  • Comment 44, posted at 16.07.15 17:04:46 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 44) : As I’ve stated on numerous occasions and on numerous blogs….if HM coached the Boks to no 1 spot, and kept them there for an extended period of time, then he could play 100% overseas based former bulls for all I care – and whatever reasons he gives for doing so will be seen as being the right thing to do.

    Hansen has kept the AB’s at no 1 for 4 consecutive years, and until that changes, everybody will accept whatever Hansen does as being the correct decision (and I’m sure that he receives his fare share of flack from the kiwi public, even though they’re no. 1).

  • Comment 45, posted at 16.07.15 18:11:11 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • I will say one thing I do not think Pollard has the bmt to bring back a world cup if it comes down to a tense final my money is on lambie and frans maybe even morne steyn.

  • Comment 46, posted at 16.07.15 18:29:03 by coolfusion Reply

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  • Morne Steyn’s shares have certainly risen among the commentators on this site since his departure from the Bulls :)

  • Comment 47, posted at 16.07.15 19:10:35 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 45) : I hear what you’re saying…though, to be fair, we would probably all admit that over the last 4 years, New Zealand have generally just had better, more skillful players than we have…no? But I get the point… :mrgreen:

  • Comment 48, posted at 16.07.15 19:14:59 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @coolfusion (Comment 46) : Was nothing wrong with his BMT in the Super 15, or the Junior WC’s. Add that the tests he has played in. On form, Pollard is the man to do the job, even Butchie thinks so. Methinks the Lambie fever is clouding your judgement.

    Lamb is back where he was when Goosen and Gantries were the favourites. A super sub, but just not the physicality to play the FH game. He is a mature and solid player. Pollard has more to offer it seems.

    The Sharks season form and his untimely injury hasn’t helped his cause.

  • Comment 49, posted at 16.07.15 22:27:15 by KingCheetah Reply

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  • @KingCheetah (Comment 49) : You’re on the wrong site to be making comments like that. :)

  • Comment 50, posted at 17.07.15 02:39:12 by Ben Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 50) : Sad but true. It’s the same old story. Lamb is a very good player, but he seems to be painted with the same brush as Brent Russell. His utility value seems to surpass his positional preference. The Sharks in seasons past also did him no favours by shuffling him around.

  • Comment 51, posted at 17.07.15 04:39:21 by KingCheetah Reply

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  • @KingCheetah (Comment 51) : Seasons past…you’re talking Plum era there – just another reason to be thankful to be rid of Plum.

    I’d prefer Lambie at fh, and I’m hoping Meyer has Lambie locked down for fh for the WC, and that he is merely looking at developing Pollard as his bench option – who knows what HM thinks, seems to change his mind ever so often.

    But if HM wants to put his coaching fate in the hands of Pollard, I won’t be surprised and he’ll need to live and figuratively die by that decision.

  • Comment 52, posted at 17.07.15 07:11:46 by FireTheLooser Reply

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  • @KingCheetah (Comment 49) : I think we have to really good flyhalves in Pat and Pollard. The one aspect where Pat is much better than Pollard is game management…but we’ll see what happens…

  • Comment 53, posted at 17.07.15 08:18:33 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @KingCheetah (Comment 51) : @pastorshark (Comment 53) : yes both Pollard and Pat is vey good and I do not have a big problem with anyone of them starting. Now if HM plays MS then I have a problem!!!!!!!!

  • Comment 54, posted at 17.07.15 11:18:45 by JD Reply
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  • @JD (Comment 54) : :mrgreen:

  • Comment 55, posted at 17.07.15 12:05:43 by pastorshark Reply
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  • No doubt Pollard has a great boot and is a good player but he does not have bmt. Pollard is one of those players who can perform well enough provided conditions are optimal. I ha e never seen him rally a losing pack he shrinks back as soon as he has too much pressure and not all decisions and kicks go his way. Last week was a one example where he completely shrank back into being just a technician and passenger. Another example is his Sr display when bulls were on the front foot dominating he played when he had a large deficit to make up he got discouraged. Lambie differs in that respect he has the presence to calm matters down he coolly asesses and adapts. I don’t know how many times I heard people comment on how he could not perform because his forwards or scrumhalf or something hindered him. And yet lambie did so much more with the same tools in less time. Pollard is good but he is more hype than actual proof. 3 good test matches awful cc awful Sr since he graduated to big leagues. What exactly has he done since making bok? One magical game against a disinterested all blacks team.

  • Comment 56, posted at 17.07.15 13:48:18 by coolfusion Reply

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  • @pastorshark (Comment 53) : Have to agree, and that comes with experience. HM has time to experiment, he already knows exactly what Lambie offers, having worked with him over the last couple of years. Pollard still a work in progress, but has definite [email protected]coolfusion (Comment 56) : Bud, all that is true. Pollard is still a youngster, and has time to grow. Lamb also hd to go to school as such at that age.

  • Comment 57, posted at 17.07.15 15:36:50 by KingCheetah Reply

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  • @KingCheetah (Comment 57) : Agreed…

  • Comment 58, posted at 17.07.15 21:08:52 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @KingCheetah (Comment 57) : Sounds very much like an excuse in preparation for pollie ‘ s failure. What irks me is yah pat always comes in and cleans up the mess always stable and yet everyone is either quick to dismiss him or slow to acknowledge him. If it wasn’t Goosen then jJantjies now pollard who is better and the next best thing while the only Quality player Pat always undervalued.

  • Comment 59, posted at 18.07.15 08:55:16 by coolfusion Reply

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  • @coolfusion (Comment 59) : I don’t think you’re judging this quite right. On the one hand, I think Pollard is better than you give him credit for…on the other hand, Pat’s game management is clearly better and I think HM recognises that – that became clear at the end of last season…right at the moment I think Pat is being eased back in after his injury…

  • Comment 60, posted at 18.07.15 09:06:43 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @pastorshark (Comment 60) : Ja maybe. Look I think pollard is a talent. But people seem to downgrade pat the whole time and yet he is the guy always delivering. Yes he isn’t 6 feet tall but what he lacks in size he more than makes up in heart. He deserves first Crack at f.h. for what he has already shown not just a bench players where most of this country would like to relegate him to.

  • Comment 61, posted at 18.07.15 10:05:06 by coolfusion Reply

    coolfusionTeam captain
     
  • @coolfusion (Comment 61) : Agreed…

  • Comment 62, posted at 18.07.15 11:36:32 by pastorshark Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Administrator
    pastorsharkCoach
     

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