KSA Shark ©

Captaincy is the big thing

Written by Andre Bosch (KSA Shark ©)

Posted in :In the news on 16 Feb 2009 at 19:43
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , ,

There was a time not that long ago when conventional wisdom had it that the captain’s main role on the field was to talk to the referee and his biggest chore before kick-off was to be the man who called the players into the huddle and lead the chant of “manne, manne, hoi…” as they squeezed together.

Gavin Rich writes that this was because of the increasingly all-pervading nature of the coach’s influence, with Rassie Erasmus’s coloured lights and little cards which were used to signal and call moves when he was in charge at the Cheetahs being the most extreme example of a team being led from the dug-out.

But the stunned reaction of a Stormers team that became rudderless for more than 25 minutes after their skipper Jean de Villiers was carried from the field against the Sharks was a reminder that captaincy is far from being a sinecure position in a modern rugby team. Indeed, if you look at how world rugby has panned out since the last World Cup, it may be even as important as the identity of the coach.

Just take a look at the All Black experience last year. Graham Henry’s coaching staff played a big role in messing it up at the outset by playing expansive rugby when a more conservative style was called for in the Tri-Nations. They were man enough to admit it afterwards, and they apologised to the New Zealand public.

It should not be overlooked though that the amazing turn-around in the space of a week between a test in Sydney and another in New Zealand the following week, also coincided with the return of Richie McCaw, the All Black captain. In fact, his management admitted the importance of this when they pointed out afterwards that they had not coached much under the ELVs, but McCaw had played an entire Super 14 season with them.

Before McCaw returned, the All Blacks were poor, losing successive matches to the Springboks in Dunedin and the Wallabies in Sydney. After that, with him wearing his familiar No 7 jersey, they never lost again to those teams, or to anyone else for that matter, and ended the year once again recognised as the world’s best rugby side.

I don’t have the facts as readily at my finger tips, but the Wallabies’ better performances, and worst performances, last year also coincided with when Stirling Mortlock was present or absent.

The Boks slid to No 2, but only during the period that John Smit was off the field. To underline Smit’s value to the Boks, here is a not insignificant fact — since the 2006 first test against England at Twickenham, where the Boks went in with a severely under-strength team, the Boks have not lost a test match that Smit has started and finished.

The only game they lost where he started was the opening 2008 Tri-Nations match against the All Blacks in Wellington, but he left the field after half an hour, when his team were leading.

Smit’s immense role in the build-up to the most recent game against England has been well documented, and his worth as a leader is no longer a point up for debate. It ended on 15 June 2007, when the Boks started in rousing fashion against the Wallabies in Cape Town, only to fall away badly once Smit was replaced after quarter of an hour.

At the next level down, the captaincy has been no less important. Heyneke Meyer’s loss to the Bulls was huge last season, but so was the loss of Victor Matfield, who when he teams up with Fourie du Preez at his franchise settles into a leadership role that he may be more comfortable with than when he is at the Boks.

The Sharks were without Smit last season and Johann Muller was also ruled out for a portion of the season with injury. The Sharks management often lamented what they perceived as a lack of leadership when those players were absent, and it coincided with a dip in their performances.

And on Saturday Erasmus, now with the Stormers, was quick after the game to point to lack of composure as the factor that stymied his team against the Sharks. It was another way of saying his team missed De Villiers, which they undeniably did, for losing a captain becomes so much more problematic when that leader also happens to be a world class player, which Smit, McCaw, Matfield and De Villiers all are.


  • finally an article that makes it clear that Victor Victoria has done nothing as a Bok captain.

  • Comment 1, posted at 16.02.09 19:44:33 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 1) :You’ve been waiting for this.

  • Comment 2, posted at 16.02.09 20:19:03 by provincejoulekkading Reply
  • When I die, I want to be remembered in the bloggin community of one point I made and one point alone.

    People underestimate the importance of a leader in a team.

    John Smit would be my captain come 2011 – if he is not, there is no way in hell we will retain the World Cup – quote me on that.

    John Smit should have been the captain for the Sharks in the Super 14 this year. It is going to cost them the title, quote me on that too.

    Apart from the usual, (f#$king boring) Gavin Rich swipe at P DivvIE’s expansive style of writing this was one of the most important points he has ever brought across.

  • Comment 3, posted at 16.02.09 20:23:12 by MorneN Reply
  • @MorneN (Comment 3) : Too bad you will be going down as the guy who types long responses 😛

  • Comment 4, posted at 16.02.09 20:31:43 by provincejoulekkading Reply
  • @provincejoulekkading (Comment 4) :

    And wanted to play JDV at 10! 😉

  • Comment 5, posted at 16.02.09 20:33:59 by MorneN Reply
  • @MorneN (Comment 5) : On my phone,was too lazy to add that part!

  • Comment 6, posted at 16.02.09 20:39:18 by provincejoulekkading Reply
  • Oh,im with you on the Smit part.

  • Comment 7, posted at 16.02.09 20:42:45 by provincejoulekkading Reply
  • @provincejoulekkading (Comment 7) :

    Of course you are, you are a Stormers supporter – you know your rugby.

  • Comment 8, posted at 16.02.09 20:46:02 by MorneN Reply
  • Yes, we are a bunch of scholars and gentlemen.

  • Comment 9, posted at 16.02.09 20:48:43 by provincejoulekkading Reply
  • @MorneN (Comment 3) :
    For Pete’s sake Morne – I thought you might have figured it out by now – Smit is not playing captain so that Bismark doesn’t feel that he will be sidelined.

    Do the maths lad! 🙄

  • Comment 10, posted at 16.02.09 21:39:11 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @MorneN (Comment 3) : Morne, you will get no argument from me of the importance of John Smit’s leadership to both the Boks and Sharks. I just feel that it is better for him to not have the leadership mantle to carry while playing a new position. Will also give him something of a mental break that we all know players need. These are the thing that will ensure a strong, healthy and unstressed John Smit will be available in 2011 to lead the Boks to the defense of Bill.

  • Comment 11, posted at 17.02.09 01:10:57 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Dancing Bear
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 11) : The other thing is that Smitty will be leading the Boks for most of the Currie Cup, so to have continuity in captaincy throughout the year (as the Sharks had last year, and which culminated in success) is important.

  • Comment 12, posted at 17.02.09 07:08:14 by Baldrick Reply

  • @Baldrick (Comment 12) : rubbish, cc doesn’t need a strong leader. s14 however does and johan doesn’t have the same brilliance smit does.

  • Comment 13, posted at 17.02.09 07:41:07 by try time Reply

  • Aah, the Sharks are fighting amongst each other.

    MorneN, well done sir!!! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 14, posted at 17.02.09 07:57:11 by wpw Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 14) :

    My job here is done 😉

  • Comment 15, posted at 17.02.09 08:03:44 by MorneN Reply
  • @wpw (Comment 14) :

    @MorneN (Comment 15) :

    😛 😛

  • Comment 16, posted at 17.02.09 08:07:34 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Yes but lets be honest….the Stormers are effected the worst of all the SA teams…
    If Groblaar goes the LIONS still has Joubert as back-up…
    If Matfield goes the Bulls still hava Du Preez…
    If Muller goes the Sharks still have Smit…
    The Cheetahs also have it a bit bad…if Juan goes they have Stoltz (but were in a better position in the past with Duncan)…

    If JdV goes they only have Bobo (Watson is an option…but how effective will he be after last year??) Bobo could not even beat sides like Valke and Griekwas last year…and all he was missing was Mujati/Bekker/Burger/Ricky/JVD from the side…although all those players make an impact…I do not believe the Valke or Griekwas had better players than the back-up’s for the before mentioned…(of which Bobo was one of them at 12)…

    JdV fitness will be the difference in a Stormers top for or even top half log position…

  • Comment 17, posted at 17.02.09 10:22:29 by Hmmm Reply

  • I don’t really rate Vic as the world class captian…but he does seem to get the Bulls to do what they need to to win…as ugly as it might be sometimes…

  • Comment 18, posted at 17.02.09 10:23:47 by Hmmm Reply

  • And I still think Joubert is a better captain than Baywatch…if memory serves the LIONS never on the receiving end of a hiding when Joubert was captain…and when he was captain the LIONS won 5 from 6 until he got injured…but you cannot be captain if you do not play half the time…

  • Comment 19, posted at 17.02.09 10:27:17 by Hmmm Reply


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