Let’s back them

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Original Content on 22 Feb 2009 at 11:58

Why don’t we as South Africans back our youngsters?

After listening to Reds coach, Phil Mooney, I realized that South Africans would rather criticize their players, especially youngsters, than back them.

South African rugby has one of the largest player pools in the world, second only to England. This means that as a rugby playing nation we have a wealth of talent continually coming through and compared to a nation like Australia, it actually becomes embarrassing to see how many talented players we have.

How is it though that we continually struggle for depth in competitions like the Super 14?

Coach Mooney mentioned in the post match press conference that some of his Reds players that played on Friday evening have more Super 14 caps than club caps! This is a shocking statistic if you look at how close they came to beating one of the better and richer franchises in the competition on Friday night.

It is also not a case of only the media and supporters not backing our young talent, but also that of the coaches.

I heard Rassie mention in the very same media conference that if the Stormers are to be successful, they will need to utilize their whole squad through this competition and rotate players. It is something that is said quite often by all coaches every year, but we rarely see this applied unless there is serious injury to first choice players.

In South Africa we have the youngest ever World Cup winner in Frans Steyn, who is part of a new generation of players which includes youngsters like JP Pietersen, Jean Deysel, Morné Steyn, Peter Grant, Ruan Pienaar, Nick Koster, Burton Francis, the Ebherson twins, Chiliboy and too many to mention. And although some of them are first choice players within their franchise, we see many of them being shunted around the team playing out of position, or at best coming off the bench. This even after many agree and believe that they are better than the current first choice players who have ‘more experience’.

Perhaps it is because of these riches in players and player numbers (and Australia’s lack of it) that they are in fact more adapt, and more keen to back youngsters in big competitions like the Super 14.

Now of course I do not believe we should discard the older, more experienced players in place of talented youngsters – after all, you cannot coach experience.

What I am saying though is that rather than bashing or over-analyzing our youngsters when they make the step up, let’s rather back them to perform and thereby instill confidence in these players that will take the place of our current superstars in the not too distant future.


  • Perhaps it is because of these riches in players and player numbers (and Australia’s lack of it) that they are in fact more adapt, and more keen to back youngsters in big competitions like the Super 14.

    That answers the question IMO.

    The Aussies do it out of necessity.

    It doesn’t mean we should do it though. Look at Ebersohn. He has chosen NOT to play S14 because the CC was to hard on his body at such an early age. (I was told this by the Bok 7s Physio) If the CC was to hard the S14 woulda broken him.

    He is in a rather isolated situation of his union not having depth and having had to play almost every match. In a bigger union he would have been able to build up his experience gradually.

  • Comment 1, posted at 22.02.09 13:19:26 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • good arguement. I for one am hell of keen to see Luzuko V get more game time

  • Comment 2, posted at 22.02.09 13:23:03 by robdylan Reply
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  • Agree with you KSA…no need to rush the youngsters in….why turn a brilliant U19 into a mediocre “senior”??

  • Comment 3, posted at 22.02.09 13:28:33 by Me2 Reply

    Me2 aka Mama Shark
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 1) : @Me2 (Comment 3) :

    My question though is this…

    How come the NZ and Aus youngsters are never ‘rushed’ but adapt quickly and you never hear them with issues of depth like we have.

    I mean, how can we have issues with depth, or struggle against nations like Aus given their ‘depth’ and ours?

    Our youngsters and theirs seems worlds apart in comps like the S14!

    And its not like we are inferior to them, our age-group teams kick their ass on a continued basis.

  • Comment 4, posted at 22.02.09 13:43:29 by Morné Reply
  • I mean I have bashed Steyn, and apart from enjoying it from time to time, what would an Aus, or NZ, or any nation do to have a guy like him???

    Maybe it comes down to the point where we have shit all idea on how to manage talent in this country…

  • Comment 5, posted at 22.02.09 13:45:30 by Morné Reply
  • our age-group teams kick their ass on a continued basis.

    Only because their age groupers are playing senior rugby already. 😉

    Seriously though, it seems as if their youngsters (Kiwi’s. Not so much the aussies) are a lot bigger than our youngsters.

  • Comment 6, posted at 22.02.09 13:48:59 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Not sure how much ANZ Cup you get to see Morne… but rarely does a youngster come through the ranks without having proven himself at that level…

  • Comment 7, posted at 22.02.09 14:30:16 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 6) : You got a point there…our youngsters don’t seem to “fill out” until they in their early 20s. Have noticed the same thing in tennis..wonder if their youngsters do more time in the gymn than ours?

  • Comment 8, posted at 22.02.09 14:30:40 by Me2 Reply

    Me2 aka Mama Shark
  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 7) :

    Even if only for a season…

  • Comment 9, posted at 22.02.09 14:30:49 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • Hi Guys
    Excellent piece, I have some thoughts on this and I believe it has nothing to do with rugby, but rather the way we are brought up, I spent six months in Aussie and their kids already have a job by the time they get to the age of 16, not all, but most, they are more grown up and independent than kids of the same age, therefore the mind set is different, they are adult in there thinking where as here, the kids are still very much under their parents control and this could be a factor. We also do not always engender free thinking on the field either. We are late developers as well, we are slower;-)

  • Comment 10, posted at 22.02.09 14:31:18 by Whindy Reply
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  • @Whindy (Comment 10) : I like your point….I have 2 kids…one started “working” when she was 14 (cooking muffins to sell in our shop), the other never had a job until he left school. My daughter could not wait to get away and be independent, my son still lives with us..allbeit in the granny flat, and is financially totally independent.

    “We also do not always engender free thinking on the field either.”
    I don’t think we engender free thinking in our younsters and there we have our educational system to thank.

    Also remember, Aussie kids have a safer & therefore more free environment, in which to grow up!

  • Comment 11, posted at 22.02.09 15:24:36 by Me2 Reply

    Me2 aka Mama Shark
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 6) :

    I don’t think so…

  • Comment 12, posted at 22.02.09 16:04:36 by Hmmm Reply

  • I think we need a balance…we either blow air up the backsides or don’t give enough attention…
    We should give attention…however allowing the youngsters to grow into the players they can be (potentially)…

  • Comment 13, posted at 22.02.09 16:06:29 by Hmmm Reply

  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 7) :

    THAT is a very valid point, and I hadn’t thought of that.

    We only JUST started seeing ANZ Cup, and I think it was only the Final, this year. So with the non-exposure over here, the first time we see a player is when he is suddenly in the S14.

    Similarly the Aussie players have to come straight from Club Rugby to S14, so we don’t see them either.

    Essentially that means it only looks like we don’t give our youngsters a chance when we certainly do. To an extent that is. Take that list of players that Morne mentioned and it seems we do give youngsters a chance.

    How many times have we (I certainly have) asked for a player not to be made a Bok on his CC performances?

    While on that subject, Jean Deysel is another player we (almost) all rated as a Bok. The Sharks have only played SA sides thusfar and already I believe Deysel is a lot more “run of the mill” than “stand out”. Let’s hope he steps up and becomes more prominent as the season goes on.

  • Comment 14, posted at 22.02.09 16:23:06 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • I got a spin class to go to. Later.

  • Comment 15, posted at 22.02.09 16:23:56 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 14) : KSA – did you actually watch Deysel last week?

  • Comment 16, posted at 22.02.09 18:17:31 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 16) :

    Yes I did. I think he got MOM didn’t he. Didn’t agree with it at the time.

    In the CC he was a class above the rest. In the S14 thusfar he is on a par with the rest.

  • Comment 17, posted at 22.02.09 18:49:20 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @robdylan (Comment 2) : that kid has some quick feet!

  • Comment 18, posted at 22.02.09 18:59:46 by provincejoulekkading Reply
  • We are so quick to praise and then burn these kids.

    I think its cos we as a nation generally have a Messiah-complex.

    Fact is that we need to curtail our initial fascination, and then curb our criticism.

    Guys like JPP, Frans Steyn and others are still young and need to be trained,not deified or denigrated.

  • Comment 19, posted at 23.02.09 00:12:33 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 19) :

    Whilst too many of us mug punters are participating in the anual baggin of each other’s players/teams/coaches/supporters (on the blogs)… not too much noise being made on Heyneke Meyers new venture…

    This is exactly the sort of entity (that Aus and NZ have in many forms from their high performance centres to the likes of the Mexted academy)… and if done properly (political meddling aside HM is a meticulous planner), could be the exact thing needed to take our super-talented youngsters and channel/mentor/mould them into balanced super-freaks in their sporting trade…

    Here’s hoping HM gets plenty of support… the man has a vision…

  • Comment 20, posted at 23.02.09 02:01:42 by bryce_in_oz Reply

  • @bryce_in_oz (Comment 20) : I must have missed this… what exactly IS his new venture?

  • Comment 21, posted at 23.02.09 10:08:05 by robdylan Reply
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  • The youngsters have my backing. 🙂

  • Comment 22, posted at 23.02.09 10:27:02 by McLovin Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 21) :

  • Comment 23, posted at 23.02.09 11:04:31 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 23) : thanks oubaas 🙂

  • Comment 24, posted at 23.02.09 11:06:29 by robdylan Reply
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