New Zealand has a flyhalf crisis too

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Super 14 on 2 Apr 2008 at 14:56

A lot of noise is made about the fact that we lack quality at flyhalf in SA. I reckon the New Zealanders are not all that far behind us when it comes to a dearth of depth at pivot.

Of the five SA franchises, only the Stormers boast a South African flyhalf that looks the part at Super Rugby level, in Peter Grant. The Sharks have Michalak (a Frenchman) and Steyn (a disaster at ten), while the Bulls’ Liefling obsession is costing them dearly this year. Jacques-Louis Potgieter at the Cheetahs looks like he may come right in time, but Conrad Barnard is hopeless. So too Louis Strydom for the Lions, while the journeyman Jaco van Schalkwyk is really a fullback being played at flyhalf. Even the Stormers have opted to go for international experience, with New Zealander Tony Brown their backup pivot.

With the departure of both Aaron Mauger and Luke Mcalister, things suddenly aren’t looking too rosy in New Zealand either. Dan Carter and Nick Evans are both class, with Stephen Brett a very capable understudy. Those three might be enough to see them through at test level, but I maintain that New Zealand doesn’t have the necessary depth at flyhalf to adequately cover five teams in the Super 14.

The Blues were fortunate to secure the services of Evans from the Highlanders. With him out, they have been forced to play Ice Toeava at pivot, a move that hardly utilises the hard-running centre’s talents to their fullest. Isa Nacewa (also currently out) is another who could probably do a job at 10, but looks far more comfortable in the last line of defence. The Highlanders were left with no experienced pivots; their early season hope Daniel Bowden has just been dropped as they continue to search for a suitable 10. The latest candidate is fullback James Wilson, who has already shown this season that he doesn’t have a boot worth mentioning.

The Hurricanes and Chiefs have a pair of journeymen in Jimmy Gopperth and Stephen Donald respectively. Both are quite experienced at this level, yet neither has gone on to develop into a player that could stand out consistently on the Super Rugby stage, much less at test level. Neither squad has many established options outside these two… the Canes would call on youngster Willie Ripia should Gopperth go down, while the Chiefs at least have Tasesa Lavea and Callum Bruce to provide some cover.

And now with both Carter and Brett injured, the Crusaders will need to bring Leon Macdonald in at pivot, or risk going out to their wider training group to find a flyhalf.

Small wonder the New Zealanders are looking at bringing back Queensland pivot Quade Cooper, who left New Zealand in his teens to make the Sunshine Coast his home.


  • Still more flyhalf talent than SA… Wonder if PdV will call on Butch??

  • Comment 1, posted at 02.04.08 15:04:50 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Armchair selectors ‘fail to see big picture’
    Mark Keohane
    April 02 2008 at 11:17AM

    It is that time of the year when everyone picks the Springbok team. And the guy who makes it among the mass market is usually the try-scorer from last Saturday’s win, the try-saver or the line-breaker.

    Individuals make the team as opposed to combinations, the public and media get high on a particular player, and the national coach cringes because when it comes to the picking of the Bok team the coach invariably looks to combinations first and individuals second.

    For example, no one early in the Super 14 picked Juan Smith in their Bok form XV. Yes, he has been injured but even in the first few weeks of the tournament Smith struggled to make the Super 14 form XVs.

    It is absurd because the class of the player is such that he is the best closed-side flanker in the world and if he was playing for a top-two Super 14 team no one would dispute it.

    Form in the Super 14 is largely determined by team performance. Few guys ever excel over three months playing alongside a bunch of duds.

    The guy at the Sharks this season looks far better than the guy at the Lions, but put an undeniable talent at the Lions in the Sharks team and he may just look so much more impressive than the guy at the Sharks.

    That’s what the national coach and his selectors have to continually weigh up. How good would player A be if he was playing for team B? How good would that scrumhalf be in combination with that flyhalf, especially if his pack was gaining yards?

    What the World Cups in 2003 and 2007 proved beyond doubt was the value of experience. The most experienced England team ever won the World Cup in 2003. Jake White’s Boks who started against England in the World Cup final were the most experienced side ever. That’s a statement of what works.

    Take this Super 14 as an example. As well as Tonderai Chavhanga has played, how do you leave out JP Pietersen or Bryan Habana?

    Pietersen was immense as a 21 year-old at the World Cup, but he hasn’t scored a try in this year’s Super 14. So what, chop him and pick Chavhanga? It’s crazy talk.

    What should be written is that if Pietersen or Habana are injured there appears to be a capable replacement in Chavhanga or the Ndunganes.

    The media is to blame for fuelling these weekly team selection fires. They pick and drop players based on a Super 14 game when the Bok coach has to assess what this player can do in the Test environment, especially when played in combination with someone else.

    And comparing Super rugby to Test rugby is like comparing the grass-court of Wimbledon to the clay-court of the French Open. They often require players with different skills.

    South Africa is so blessed that the core of the World Cup-winning squad still has four years of international rugby as a team. Why discard the guys who time and again have done it and won the prize in Paris?

    Phase in the youngsters and second tier with that comfort of having a guy who has done it.

    The Super 14 should be about identifying the add-ons to a successful national squad, and not a new national squad.

    Would it be wise to pick Conrad Jantjes and Peter Grant at 15 and 10 in a Test for the first time against Wales, when you have the luxury of Percy Montgomery and Butch James?

    In my opinion, no. But if you play the one in tandem with the other and vice versa, knowing the older blokes will be out of here by 2010, you build a team.

    Of the World Cup-winning run-on XV, you have to invest (for now) in Montgomery, Pietersen, Fourie (if he is fit by June), Steyn, Habana, James, Du Preez, Rossouw, Smith, Burger, Matfield, Botha, Van der Linde, Smit and ah! there’s the new guy (at loose-head).

    The rest make up the group; be it Jantjes, De Villiers, Grant, De Kock, Chavhanga, Kankow-ski, Sowerby, Van Heerden, Spies, Bekker, Mujati, Du Plessis or Van der Merwe.

    Experience of writing about Springbok rugby for 15 years tells me there is never a substitute for experience in Tests.

    If we were playing Wales in the World Cup final in June, which of the 14 available Boks from October 20 in Paris would you drop? Personally, I wouldn’t drop one of them.

    This article was originally published on page 16 of Cape Argus on April 02, 2008

  • Comment 2, posted at 02.04.08 15:06:33 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • NZ could call up Tony Brown

  • Comment 3, posted at 02.04.08 15:21:12 by Kal-El Reply

  • Well – the point of the article as more that they don’t have enough good pivots to fill all their Super 14 teams… not really so much about the national setup

  • Comment 4, posted at 02.04.08 15:26:45 by robdylan Reply
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  • Sorry Rob, 4got the smiley

  • Comment 5, posted at 02.04.08 15:30:13 by Kal-El Reply

  • that’ll teach you 😉

  • Comment 6, posted at 02.04.08 15:34:07 by robdylan Reply
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  • maybe it will force a change in the NZ thinking, most of their no 12 could play at 10 but then they will have a shortage at 12

  • Comment 7, posted at 02.04.08 16:19:18 by barend Reply

  • Whereas most of our 12s should actually be playing at either 13 or 6 😉

  • Comment 8, posted at 02.04.08 16:52:40 by robdylan Reply
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  • lol robd,
    arguably the top 3 flyhalves in the game.

  • Comment 9, posted at 02.04.08 17:23:11 by cab Reply

  • but those are the only 3…

  • Comment 10, posted at 02.04.08 17:28:36 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • haha..we should be so lucky.
    i think fred must play at 10 for the sharks, he’s done well.

  • Comment 11, posted at 02.04.08 17:33:43 by cab Reply

  • looks like he will… Frans looks set to add yet another number to his collection of jerseys 😉

  • Comment 12, posted at 02.04.08 17:46:01 by robdylan Reply
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