Cry the Beloved Flyhalf

Written by Jonathan Burt (VinChainSaw)

Posted in :Original Content on 13 Feb 2008 at 13:04

The Super14 looms large for South African players, especially those looking to impress and crack a nod in Peter de Villiers trinations squad.

This unfortunately brings me to another all-too-familiar subject… where the hell are all the flyhalves and why does South Africa, year after year struggle to find a decent, fit flyhalf before midway through the season?

Last year was a World Cup year, one that ended very successfully for us, both at the World Cup and indeed going back to the first half of the year and a stellar S14 showing.

Now I take you back to this time last year, a good 7 months before the World Cup was due to commence.

At that point we also had very little idea of who would playing at pivot for the World Cup. We knew it would be either Butch or the Sundance kid, being Pretoors, but neither have been known to play more than a few games on the trot without somehow injuring themselves.

I take you back to the year before that… and memories of Longdrop Botha… agh Jaco van der Westhuizen.

I take you back 12 months prior to that… and 12 months prior to that which would be around the time that a certain Derick Hougaard was being touted as the answer to our prayers.

Now flyhalf is arguably the most important position on a rugby field and all great teams have great flyhalves.

While stopping short of comparing their influence over a game to that of a NFL Quarterback, it surely cant be too far off.

And yet year after year we start the season without an incumbent in the position. Seemingly we think we’ll unearth one in the Super14 and he’ll magically fit into the backline and perform wonders.

Reflect back to the start of 2007 and there were realistically three names in the hat, two with a history of injury and one had yet to play a test and was relatively untested.

Peter Grant eventually got his debut cap but failed to nail down a starting berth in the Bok side and eventually, with many thanks to the rugby gods, Butch was fit and able and carried us to World Cup glory.

Now Butch is gone and back to the drawing board for both the Boks and Peter de Villiers, again with very little clue as to who will end the international season wearing the ten jersey.

There is talk of Butch playing during the international window, there is talk of Pretoors making another come-back from injury and old Peter Grant is still waiting for his chance… yet that is my point, how was nobody groomed?

I’d like to go back and blame Jake but that wouldn’t help anything as we all saw this coming from a mile off with his golden 15 playing week in, week out, pretty much for four years.

But realistically the problem goes back further than that because it happens with each and every coach. And it happens each and every year.

How does this happen? We are one of the superpowers of world rugby yet year after year we’re scrambling to find an able body to stick in at first receiver for the green n gold.

Going back as long as I can remember this was the case. Even when we won the World Cup in 1995 there was confusion in the run-up as to who would be looking after the flyhalf duties, with Hennie le Roux eventually given the inside centre berth and Joel taking the flyhalf duties. Its totally absurd.

Looking at comparable teams elsewhere, arguably the Kiwis, Ozmob and the English make for the best comparison, each one of them has had a stable option at 10 for the last number of years.

NZ have been doubly blessed by being able to call on the services of Dan Carter, Carlos Spencer and Andrew Mehrtens in recent times, but at all times you knew who the frontrunner for the starting berth was. Should Carter get injured they’d pull in Evans and it wont be long before they start grooming Stephen Brett as a Dan Carter understudy.

Oz had Bernie Larkham for what seemed like an eternity.

The English have had a few, currently with Jonny Wilkinson the obvious choice with Danny Cipriani being the pretender and being brought in after a World Cup campaign, ostensibly to learn the ropes from an ageing Wilko.

What is it about South Africa that we cannot produce top-quality flyhalves on a regular basis? Yes there have been talented individuals over the years but there’s been no consistency, either in the playing style of said pivot nor in the production of flyhalves.

Every other position we have covered. Fullbacks, hookers and scrumhalves we produce by the bucket load to such a degree that at times we have 3 or 4 players challenging for that position with another couple plying their trade overseas.

Yet not at flyhalf.

The part that really puzzles me though is that we play a very similar game to that of Argentina and England and yet they produce flyhalf after flyhalf after flyhalf. How is that?

When will the time come that South Africa, as World champions, one of the oldest custodians of the game and a rugby superpower, begin a season knowing exactly who their standoff will be and know that he is among the best in the world?


  • Here’s hoping the year of the rat brings us a flyhalf to guide us through the next few years in the same way as John Smit and Percy guided SA through the last few years.

  • Comment 1, posted at 13.02.08 13:06:01 by VinceChainSaw Reply
  • Amen to that, Chainsaw Laney.

    Who will it be? Hougaard, Potgieter, Strydom, Michalak and Grant. Those are the names that will play this weekend. One of them ain’t even a saffa…

  • Comment 2, posted at 13.02.08 15:07:34 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Isnt Brown coming to the stormers?

    Then Grant may not even get gametime…

  • Comment 3, posted at 13.02.08 15:11:51 by VinceChainSaw Reply
  • Mark my words, Frans Steyn will be a legend of the game – at FLYHALF.

  • Comment 4, posted at 13.02.08 15:26:51 by hellbent Reply

  • But thats my point HB.

    We should have a load of flyhalves challenging for the starting berth -not trying to retread another backline palyer into that position because he has talent and we have a gap to fill.

  • Comment 5, posted at 13.02.08 15:30:18 by VinceChainSaw Reply
  • Vinchenzo, I think Frans favours 10, but has been moved all over the place. The problem is his youth and possibly the worry that the void left by Butch would be hard to replace in terms of experience which Frans still needs to pick up. He always has a go, and you can’t fault commitment, but a good flyhlaf knows when to go and when not to. That will come with time.

    He could be the next Honiball cum Reece-Edwards cum Larkham. He has oodles of talent and youth on his side.

  • Comment 6, posted at 13.02.08 15:34:28 by hellbent Reply

  • who is the next big thing at Fullback for the Sharks? Pietersen?

  • Comment 7, posted at 13.02.08 15:36:51 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • “We should have a load of flyhalves challenging for the starting berth” – This comes back to something you will find in rugby: at various stages there are a plethora of talented individuals in one position. The Sharks 2 – 4 years ago had to pull players from the S14 draft (Sephaka, Heinke, Gurthro) to make up numbers. This year they have 6 or 7. But are short in the Lock department, but had Albert, Mark Andrews, Philip SMit and Muller all available at one stage.

    I think it could even be some kind of stat you could research from schoolboy era, almost like popular baby names in different years.

    Beast and Pat Cilliers and Deon Carstens are making it cool to be a prop at the moment, so who knows, in 10 years time, there might be an abundance of props and people wonder why.

    Just a theory mind you!

  • Comment 8, posted at 13.02.08 15:40:06 by hellbent Reply


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