Save utility for the bench, Dick

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super 14 on 17 Apr 2008 at 16:28

I’m far more inclined, given what we’ve seen of late, to agree with the Peter de Villiers school of thought when it comes to specialisation over versatility. The Sharks backs are suffering through inconsistency in selection and through under-specialisation in their primary positions.

Running through the names we have in our backline, every single player bar Rory Kockott has been tried in more than one position in the past. Chief culprit (or is that victim?) is Francois Steyn, who has played at flyhalf, outside centre, wing and fullback for the Sharks under Dick Muir, as well as inside center, flyhalf, wing and fullback at national level under Jake White. Not far behind are Ruan Pienaar (scrumhalf, flyhalf, wing and fullback) and Adi Jacobs (flyhalf, both centres and wing) while each of the other players has played in at least two jerseys: Barritt (flyhalf and inside centre), Murray (inside centre and wing), Terblanche, Pietersen, Mentz and Ndungage (all have played both wing and fullback). Fred Michalak has played at scrumhalf as well as flyhalf in his career, although to date the Sharks have only used him at pivot.

While experience in a variety of positions is no doubt good for a player’s personal development (to an extent) as he accumulates a wider variety of skills and becomes more useful, it does nothing for the cohesion of the team and particularly the effectiveness of the line on attack and defence. The essence of successful backline play, to my mind, is combinations; guys playing together in a well-rehearsed pattern that can feed off each others’ brilliance – as well as compensating for each others’ weaknesses.

These combinations start with having the best guys – the identified specialists – chosen in each of the positions. Once the mix is right, the combinations need time to settle; to play together as much as possible, to learn how each other thinks and reacts in a wide variety of different circumstances. Each player is free to concentrate on the unique demands of his chosen position; the position in which he is a specialist. He doesn’t need to worry about the man inside or outside of him not knowing what to do, because that guy would be a specialist too.

To my mind, the Sharks need to have a good sit down and think about this and come out of that exercise with a list of 14 names. Those names need to be the number 1 and number 2 player in each of the 7 positions in the backline; no name may appear twice. Once we have picked the 7 that are considered best in each position, we pick the best generalists from the remainder to serve as the backline replacements. Should one of the 7 fall out through injury or serious loss of form, he will be replaces by his nominated backup. Nobody else will change position as a result.

My first stab at such a list would look like this:

Scrumhalf: Kockott (1), Macleod (2)
Flyhalf: Michalak (1), Pienaar (2)
Left Wing: Pietersen (1), Mentz (2)
Inside Centre: Barritt (1), Steyn (2)
Outside Centre: Murray(1), Jacobs (2)
Right Wing: Ndungane (1), Mvovo (2)
Fullback: Terblanche (1), Dames(2)

Following the “best utlity” theory, the bench for the Sharks would comprise Pienaar, Steyn and Jacobs as they offer the most utility cover.

I’m sure many will disagree with the allocation above, but what do you think about the principle?


  • so yes – I think we should drop Frans.

    That should get KSA nice and sweaty πŸ˜‰

  • Comment 1, posted at 17.04.08 16:32:20 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • hey i think thats very true but wen it comes to someone like steyn u can’t afford to have him on the bench just for incase there are 2 minutes left in the game and u have a penalty 53m out. thats wen he can win ur game for u! and if he has a good game then he is unstopable! ruan i wouldn’t mind on then bench now though lol

  • Comment 2, posted at 17.04.08 16:34:21 by watarota Reply

  • Except Steyn only kicks about 25% of the long range shots he lines up anyway

  • Comment 3, posted at 17.04.08 16:39:01 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • Rob, when is your next podcast due?
    I have a suggestion for an interview with the Rugby Voice

  • Comment 4, posted at 17.04.08 16:56:54 by Ollie Reply

  • Ollie – about that 😳

    The next episode is due about a month ago now… you picking up what I’m putting down? I’m just feeling that what people get out of it isn’t really worth the amount of effort I need to put in.

  • Comment 5, posted at 17.04.08 17:02:42 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • Things like that will always start slow. I don’t know if it is possible but why don’t you do something along the lines of Lug Radio, just use Skype or some other voip to get people around the world to chat

  • Comment 6, posted at 17.04.08 17:05:22 by Ollie Reply

  • It could be real fun to participate if all you have is a couple of items on the agenda to chat about and then let the guys/gals free reign on the topic.

  • Comment 7, posted at 17.04.08 17:06:53 by Ollie Reply

  • sounds good

  • Comment 8, posted at 17.04.08 17:13:53 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • rob i think that there are good and bad points to moving the guys around. In the past it has helped us. in 2006 it worked, in 2007 percy even played flyhalf for the first few games. we have been lucky with injuries this season but if we lost 2 main backline players our backline would still look good and we would see the dividends of this philosophy. hell we could lose two in the same position (okay, not 12) and still be alright.

    that said, this moving of frans around all the time is going a bit far. if you think about it most of the guys have only really moved between 2 positions, and they are always positions that complement one another.

    barritt: flyhalf, inside centre
    ruan: scrummy, flyhalf
    murray: wing, outside centre
    JP: fullback, wing
    etc. etc. except jacobs who has played 10, 13 and wing, although he only played 10 in cc.

    but with frans it is getting a bit crazy. thing is dick also can’t really drop him now, cos he knew he was taking a chance moving him so much and he has to give frans some slack for that, frans is mostly human after all.

    also, we are thin at 12, that is where frans should be playing if this truly is a rotation type thing. but he isn’t, so it all seems a bit unorganised to me which is worrying.

    but then again, we haven’t lost a game, gotta keep reminding myself. sharks forever.

    my 2c worth.

  • Comment 9, posted at 17.04.08 17:49:25 by knersboy Reply

  • problem is, Barritt is the leader of the backline… The Sharks don’t name a vice captain, but if they did, you can be sure that BB would be that guy.

    You reckon Frans has the maturity to take on that role? He’s naturally talented, sure, but he doesn’t have a level head on his shoulders like Brad does.

  • Comment 10, posted at 17.04.08 17:55:56 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • then again – I do have a bit of a soft spot for the youngster πŸ˜‰

  • Comment 11, posted at 17.04.08 17:56:30 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • yap, this is complicated, but if steyn can come into the bok team in the place of one of our backline stalwarts (de villiers) and win a wc, then i reckon he has proven himself there, just let him settle, even if he plays off the bench. all of this said, i still have faith in dick and i am sure he knows better than us.

  • Comment 12, posted at 17.04.08 18:26:09 by knersboy Reply

  • he does. He told me as much πŸ™‚

  • Comment 13, posted at 17.04.08 18:43:35 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • Drop Frans

    ARE YOU FOOKING MAD?????????????


  • Comment 14, posted at 17.04.08 22:35:29 by KSA Shark Β© (FJ!ELN!) Reply

    KSA Shark Β©
  • :mrgreen:

    okay i’m back. πŸ™„

    Been a tough day. i am off to bed. See you in the morning for the matches.

  • Comment 15, posted at 17.04.08 22:36:15 by KSA Shark Β© (FJ!ELN!) Reply

    KSA Shark Β©
  • :mrgreen:

  • Comment 16, posted at 18.04.08 07:46:00 by Charlie Reply

  • Ksa! You left out the ‘doos’ part! Honestly

  • Comment 17, posted at 18.04.08 07:49:51 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • Why is it JP plays on the left wing when he is on the right wing for the Boks?

  • Comment 18, posted at 18.04.08 08:04:28 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • I think cos Habana has left wing sown up. There’s some scientific difference, but I’m never sure what it is

  • Comment 19, posted at 18.04.08 08:08:36 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • Yeah exactly… more position switchin by Dick…

  • Comment 20, posted at 18.04.08 08:18:26 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • Good morning everyone. Thank goodness it is Friday – it’s funny how when you get back from leave the first week back is a nightmare.

  • Comment 21, posted at 18.04.08 08:22:13 by Nessa Reply

  • morninh ness! how u doing? Anyone else feeling the nervous bug about tomorrows game or is it just me shitting myself lol ❓

  • Comment 22, posted at 18.04.08 08:23:59 by watarota Reply

  • :mrgreen: :mrgreen: @ 22

    Morning Ness and everyone else!!

  • Comment 23, posted at 18.04.08 08:31:45 by I'ce (ISWT) Reply
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  • Funny enough – I am not nervous about tomorrow’s game. Think we are going to kick some serious ass!

  • Comment 24, posted at 18.04.08 08:41:25 by Nessa Reply

  • Are the Reds Force game not on now?

  • Comment 25, posted at 18.04.08 08:43:14 by I'ce (ISWT) Reply
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  • good morning

  • Comment 26, posted at 18.04.08 08:43:59 by sharksboy Reply

  • in an hr its the Sader’s game then Reds game…

    GO REDS!

  • Comment 27, posted at 18.04.08 08:44:20 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • Oh – no worries – seems Superbru have got the times wrong again… πŸ™

    Ness – yu going to Monsoon?

  • Comment 28, posted at 18.04.08 08:44:28 by I'ce (ISWT) Reply
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  • hey ice baby! u stil remember me from the sharks blog? i used to chat there a whole while back. now i live in pretoria so i really need to chat to shark supporters so i’m back lol

  • Comment 29, posted at 18.04.08 08:44:38 by watarota Reply

  • i pray that somehow the dam chief can kick some kiwi ass today ❗

  • Comment 30, posted at 18.04.08 08:46:16 by watarota Reply

  • Yes I am – I promised Debs I would go. Are you going?

  • Comment 31, posted at 18.04.08 08:48:36 by Nessa Reply

  • I think the Reds game is at 9.35.

  • Comment 32, posted at 18.04.08 08:49:17 by Nessa Reply

  • Monsoon? What’s happening there?

  • Comment 33, posted at 18.04.08 08:50:05 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • Debs has organised for the Sharks supporters to go and watch the game there. She did it last year and it was a nice venue but we didn’t have a lot of people. Hope we will have more this year.

    So – if there are any Jhb Sharks supporters wanting to come and watch the game tomorrow – please join us.

  • Comment 34, posted at 18.04.08 08:51:36 by Nessa Reply

  • By the way it is at Emperor’s Palace – Monsoon Lagoon.

  • Comment 35, posted at 18.04.08 08:52:05 by Nessa Reply

  • Ness, write up an invite and mail it to me. I’ll put it up

  • Comment 36, posted at 18.04.08 08:53:40 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • Okie dokie – will do that.

  • Comment 37, posted at 18.04.08 08:58:56 by Nessa Reply

  • hey ness hook me up with transport from pretoria and i’ll come join u all lol. one lonely shark supporter here πŸ˜†

  • Comment 38, posted at 18.04.08 08:59:01 by watarota Reply

  • Hey Watarota – off course I remember you – what a rota!! I am sure you are more than welcome to join us at monsoon as well!

    Ness – its a 99,9% yes…its sometimes difficult to get D to agree!! πŸ˜‰

    Ness – you gonna do a quick writre -up? if you dont have time just let me know – will do it quickly…

  • Comment 39, posted at 18.04.08 09:00:16 by I'ce (ISWT) Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • The more the merrier!

    Watarota – ag no man, would have loved to have seen you again.

    Thanks Ice – just copied your posting from the Sharks Blog about the function and sent it to Rob. Tell D his favourite girl Ness will be there – that should get him there. πŸ˜‰

  • Comment 40, posted at 18.04.08 09:06:03 by Nessa Reply

  • ness u say u would love to see me again? have u seen me before?

  • Comment 41, posted at 18.04.08 09:09:08 by watarota Reply

  • #’& Sounds like a Suzanne Vega song πŸ˜†

  • Comment 42, posted at 18.04.08 09:10:40 by Ollie Reply

  • #41 😳

  • Comment 43, posted at 18.04.08 09:10:58 by Ollie Reply

  • hahaha πŸ˜†

  • Comment 44, posted at 18.04.08 09:15:54 by watarota Reply

  • Sorry Watarota – had a blonde moment there (sorry Ice). Will try and find out if anyone from Pretoria will be coming through.

  • Comment 45, posted at 18.04.08 09:16:29 by Nessa Reply

  • Ollie – what keyboard are you using?

  • Comment 46, posted at 18.04.08 09:17:11 by robdylan (LTOFT) Reply
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  • ness ollie wants me to sing u a song. are u ready for a song that would reburst mullers eardrum? πŸ˜†

  • Comment 47, posted at 18.04.08 09:19:22 by watarota Reply

  • A lady is always ready for a song. πŸ˜‰

  • Comment 48, posted at 18.04.08 09:20:37 by Nessa Reply

  • 43 – :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

    Rob – how do i get the hash / nr sign – my keyboard is diff to others (Mac) on “3” its shows hash but give me a Β£ sign if I press it… πŸ™

    Will do Ness – i am sure we will see you!

  • Comment 49, posted at 18.04.08 09:21:57 by I'ce (ISWT) Reply
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  • Okay Ice – Neen is sulking because she has to work.

  • Comment 50, posted at 18.04.08 09:23:54 by Nessa Reply

  • go to ur language settings and change ur keyboard from US to UK

  • Comment 51, posted at 18.04.08 09:26:05 by watarota Reply


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