Hertford Highlander

International dirty word, a ‘SupeRugby’ must

Written by Gwyn Pratley (Hertford Highlander)

Posted in :All Blacks, Original Content, Other SA Teams, RWC 2011, Sharks, Super Rugby, Wallabies on 10 May 2011 at 02:52
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

They refuse to use it on the international stage, but if you refuse to use it at ‘SupeRugby’ level you may just find yourself in big trouble. So I am just going to come straight out and say it – ‘Player Rotation’.

As the injury toll mounts to alarming proportions among the New Zealand franchises, one has to ask oneself – who are our third string players in our squads? – And if they have not had game time so far this season, then why not?

Not since before the 2007 RWC was ‘Player Rotation’ in vogue. Following the All Blacks disintegration at the hands of France the words ‘Player Rotation’ became a dirty word here in New Zealand. Mentioning the words, let alone being seen to support the policy led to your widespread derision in rugby circles.

However Super Rugby is not international rugby, with the Super Rugby competition by nature being a completely different beast. After an absolutely absorbing Round 12 – Injuries have hit the headlines ‘Down Under’, no longer can it be ignored, the list of front line players out of action is concerning.

While international coaches now have no place for ‘Player Rotation’ in their operational planning – clearly Super coaches do, or should I say if they don’t, they should have – and if they haven’t then they are in big trouble.

Last Monday I wrote an article titled ‘Div, Deans, and Ted should look to McKenzie’. It was an article that sang the praises of Reds Head Coach Ewen McKenzie. It focussed on his selection policy this season. So later in the week I was interested to read on Planet Rugby, Ewen McKenzies latest column titled ‘A new spin on rotation’. It was a great read and gave a real insight into how McKenzie from day one has focussed on his third string players as much as his first choice selections. McKenzie says ‘To not develop your B, C and Ds would leave your campaign at the mercy of luck’. One of the things that he has done this year has been to develop his entire squad by dare I say it – ‘Player Rotation’. Yes the dirty word of international rugby is a Super Rugby must. McKenzie’s article concluded with the statement ‘You can tell players a thousand times where they sit in your rugby program. But the strength comes from trusting them to participate. This is something the extremely successful Crusaders do very well.’

McKenzie’s words were ringing in my ears as I watched the ‘Third Stringers’ star in Round 12 this past weekend. Does Super Rugby get any better for a player than winning away against the Stormers in front of a packed ‘Newlands’? The Stormers v Crusaders clash was a magnificent advertisement for all that is good about our premier southern hemisphere competition. Firstly the visiting Crusaders were given a rousing reception by their hosts, similar to when the All Blacks play in Capetown. There has always been a strong All Black support base in the city – that reception was sure to have lifted the homeless Crusaders. So much so that there must be some interest in the Crusaders next year maybe playing a home fixture in Capetown (if AMI Stadium is still out of action). Imagine the Crusaders v Sharks at Newlands. Would the Cape faithful turn out? Would they get in behind and support the Crusaders against another South African side? – Food for thought.

The Stormers v Crusaders match was Round 12’s flagship match, and it didn’t disappoint. For me though it was the performances of some of the lesser known faces that looked so at home on the Super stage that had me fixated – as I had McKenzie’s words ringing in my ears. The player of the round for me was Tom Marshall, even though he received a ‘Yellow Card’ in the dying moments of the match. Marshall’s performance epitomized everything that was good about the Crusaders effort. Marshall’s performance was all the more remarkable for the fact that he didn’t appear until just before halftime as a replacement for Adam Whitelock who had in turn replaced Izzy Dagg in the opening stanza of the match. Marshall had an absolute blinder. He along with Willy Heinz, Luke Ramano and Jonathon Poff – who all could be considered the ‘third cab off the rank’ when it comes to team selection, all looked at ease amid one of rugby’s great playing cauldrons.

There were other third stringers to star during the round with Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders), John Ulugia (Waratahs), and Dom Shipperley (Reds) all catching the eye for all the right reasons.

A heavy injury toll is now with us and the New Zealand sides look to be suffering as much as any.

The current 2010 All Black casualty ward looks like this:

Anthony Boric – OUT, Hamstring
Daniel Braid – OUT, Neck
Daniel Carter – OUT, Hamstring
Andy Ellis – OUT, Broken Thumb
Ben Franks – OUT, Lower Back
Corey Jane – OUT, Hamstring
Jerome Kaino – OUT, Neck & Hamstring
Richie McCaw – OUT, Foot & Concussion
Ma’a Nonu – OUT, Fractured eye socket
Conrad Smith – OUT, Broken nose
Brad Thorn – OUT, Calf
Isaia Toeava – OUT, Hip
Sam Whitelock – OUT, Ankle
Tony Woodcock – OUT, Foot
Piri Weepu – OUT, Broken Ankle
Colin Slade – OUT, Broken Jaw
Izzy Dagg – OUT, Quad

It may be a dirty word in international rugby but as Ewen McKenzie’s has shown with his management and planning of the Queensland Reds campaign – ‘Player Rotation’ at this time of the season is looking like a SupeRugby must.


  • interesting read thanx

  • Comment 1, posted at 10.05.11 05:49:29 by RuckingFun Reply
  • Disintegration at the hands of France?

    I thought it was at the hands of Wayne Barnes. 🙂

  • Comment 2, posted at 10.05.11 06:11:04 by KSA Shark © Reply
    KSA Shark ©
  • @RuckingFun (Comment 1) : 😉

  • Comment 3, posted at 10.05.11 06:12:01 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 2) :

    …at the whistle of Wayne Barnes ! 😆

  • Comment 4, posted at 10.05.11 06:12:45 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • Another good one!! thanks HH.

    1. Player Rotation in International Matches would work if there were matches against smaller teams. You see some sort of Mini rotation during a RWC usually. That said, you can’t really call the Stormers a smaller team. Although most of the Crusaders changes can’t be called rotation they HAVE done well to have such a strong bunch of 3rd stringers.

    Not many unions will manage to keep players of such talent at a union if they are only 3rd in line.

  • Comment 5, posted at 10.05.11 06:20:10 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Willem Alberts is a concern to me. He is still playing good rugby but IS playing below where he was 4 matches ago.

    He needs to be managed so that his body can recover.

  • Comment 6, posted at 10.05.11 06:22:27 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • Good read thanks HH.

  • Comment 7, posted at 10.05.11 06:29:14 by Ben Reply
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  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 6) : KSA are u on a avatar exploration 😆

  • Comment 8, posted at 10.05.11 06:29:38 by franshark Reply
  • i think the fact that the stormers got there first bye in the first week of the comp is gonna be tough on there systems coming to the end of super rugby

  • Comment 9, posted at 10.05.11 06:31:39 by franshark Reply
  • @franshark (Comment 9) : Spare a thought for the Lions who only get their 2nd bye in the last round. 🙁

  • Comment 10, posted at 10.05.11 06:55:41 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @franshark (Comment 8) : My avatars change about as often as my mood changes. So that means, quite often. 😉

  • Comment 11, posted at 10.05.11 06:57:00 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 10) : LOL. Their season ends earlier. It isn’t a bye! 🙂

  • Comment 12, posted at 10.05.11 06:58:48 by Ben Reply
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  • @Ben (Comment 12) : Ouch! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 13, posted at 10.05.11 07:13:20 by Jarson (AddicteD) Reply
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  • Good read HH.. Thanx..

    It is great to see such talent coming through in New Zealand..

    I saw that Matt Todd has played something like 777 minutes of Super Rugby, and only conceded 4 penalties?! That’s amazing!!

    Do you think he has a WC shot?

  • Comment 14, posted at 10.05.11 07:15:50 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 11) : 🙂

  • Comment 15, posted at 10.05.11 07:24:29 by franshark Reply
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 5) : @Ben (Comment 7) :

    Thanks chaps ! 😎

  • Comment 16, posted at 10.05.11 07:29:17 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 14) :

    Cheers Punter

    …and he ended the match on Saturday playing on the wing !

    …. and he still wore his Headgear, that’s his inexperience coming through :mrgreen:

  • Comment 17, posted at 10.05.11 07:31:31 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • Well written. The depth and frequent rotation amongst the forwards have always been one of the sharks’ competitive advantages. At any given stage you could name 3 guys for any one position amongst the forwards. The backs have been a different story though…

  • Comment 18, posted at 10.05.11 08:12:46 by King Shark Reply
    King Shark
  • @King Shark (Comment 18) :

    Cheers KS

    … very true, however as KSA pointed out guys like Alberts are interesting when you think there are potentially 9 rounds still left in the competition ! 😯

  • Comment 19, posted at 10.05.11 08:32:32 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • Thanks HH

    Lets compile a South African/
    Boks injured list.

    Guthro Steenkamp – OUT
    Victor Matfield (maybe according to a radio report this am)
    Jon Smit – out, short term
    Juan Smit – out, still a while to go
    ????/ there must be more, please add on.

  • Comment 20, posted at 10.05.11 09:19:07 by Salmonoid Reply
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    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • @Salmonoid (Comment 20) : Andries Strauss and Peter Grant.

  • Comment 21, posted at 10.05.11 09:24:22 by Ben Reply
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  • Ryan Kankowski

  • Comment 22, posted at 10.05.11 09:25:51 by Ben Reply
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  • great read HH

  • Comment 23, posted at 10.05.11 12:14:45 by chaz Reply

  • @chaz (Comment 23) :

    Cheers Chaza, hope you are well !

    I’m doing my best to win your S15 SB Pool 😎

  • Comment 24, posted at 10.05.11 23:52:11 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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  • Amazing how many injuries to the lower half of the body , i know conditioning coaches put alot of emphasis on lower back quads and hamstrings.

  • Comment 25, posted at 11.05.11 00:13:02 by Talent Reply
  • @Talent (Comment 25) :

    Highlanders can’t even put a back line on the field this weekend!

    Smart money on the Canes! 😉

  • Comment 26, posted at 11.05.11 00:24:17 by Hertford Highlander Reply
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