To build, you need continuity

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super 14, Super Rugby on 28 Jun 2011 at 09:56
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In order for the Sharks to build on improved Super Rugby showing in 2011, it is vital that steady exodus of key players from the squad that has hampered continuity in recent years be minimised.

The Sharks last contested a Super Rugby final back in 2007 and having topped the log, as well as come within the narrowest of whiskers of winning the trophy that year, few would argue that their performances in the subsequent four seasons has failed to live up to those heights. I find it interesting to note, just as an aside, that the refereeing triumvirate who conspired to rob the Sharks of victory that day contains the names of Lyndon Bray and Bryce Lawrence, in addition to the half blind (or is that blind drunk) Steve Walsh. Interesting indeed, but that’s slightly off-topic!

There has been a change in coaching personnel along the way, of course, with John Plumtree taking over from Dick Muir in 2009 and while the slide in log positions – from first, to third, to sixth and then to ninth would have indicated that the former Kiwi simply wasn’t up to the task, I imagine he may have redeemed himself to the extent in the eyes of some stakeholders by steering the team to a sixth-place finish again in 2011. The Sharks, this year, at least made the knock-outs, after missing out for two years in a row under Plumtree. While my personal feeling is still very much that the coaching structures need to be changed, we need to look at player drain as a very real issue undermining Plumtree’s efforts.

I’ve had a look at the Super Rugby squads named by the Sharks for each of the years from 2007 to the present – in particular, I’ve looked at the players that have left each year and the result is worrying – leading to the situation where the coach is forced to virtually throw away what has been done before and start afresh.

In 2007, we lost Percy Montgomery, Warren Britz, Bob Skinstad, Gcobani Bobo, Butch James, and John Smit (temporarily), along with a number of fringe players like Scott Matthie, Sandy Nxumalo and the Noble brothers. While there are a few names there that wouldn’t raise too many eyebrows, it was the experience and leadership of Montgomery, James and Smit all leaving at the same time that set the team back most. 2008 prompted an exodus of a similar size, with BJ Botha, Johann Ackerman, AJ Venter, Epi Taione (thank goodness!), Henno Mentz, Kees Lensing, Brad Barritt, Fred Michalak and Johan Snyman calling time on their Sharks careers for one reason or another (although both Barritt and Michalak would return at various stages).

2009 again saw the end of the road for Frans Steyn, Deon Carstens, Albert van den Berg and Skipper Badenhorst, but that paled in comparison to the 2010 clean-out, which saw Johann Muller, Waylon Murray, Rory Kockott, Ruan Pienaar, Monty Dumond, Andy Goode, Andries Strauss, Chris Jordaan, Justin Downey, Skollie Ndlovu, Pat Cilliers and Mike Rhodes all turn their backs on the Sharks.

That’s 35 players leaving over the course of 4 seasons – an average of nearly 9 players leaving the Super Rugby squad each season. Assuming a squad size of roughly 30 players, we’re looking at a turnover rate of between 25-30% every year. It’s not the sheer numbers that really matter here, though – it’s the quality and when you’re losing young players of the calibre of Steyn, Barritt, Murray and Pienaar, along with seasoned Bok veterans like Muller, Venter and Carstens who still have something to give, the impact on the team’s performance is sure to be felt.

We’ve already confirmed the losses of Smit, Riaan Swanepoel and Steven Sykes ahead of Super Rugby 2012. Please, Sharks, let’s not let any more go.


  • Boy wouldn’t Sandile Nxumalo have been the perfect fit for our current game plan? Whatever happened to him?

    Maybe we need to look at how many of those players were toward the end of their careers and decided to take the foreign pension. We’re still left with a sizable contingent that has left but it’s a little more tolerable.

    In the case of Barrett and Sykes it’s also a case of leaving because they wanted to play international rugby and found their way in SA blocked.

    I’ve also heard rumours of Oupa being close to signing a contract to play in Japan.

  • Comment 1, posted at 28.06.11 10:06:35 by Butchie34 Reply
  • I don’t mind when we lose fringe players who would never have made an impact anyway.

  • Comment 2, posted at 28.06.11 10:08:21 by war1 Reply
  • Apart from experience and leadership, from the names I glanced over you are also talking about very important positions within the team!

    Tighthead, lock, scrummy & flyhalf, fullback, and you lost a host of centers it seems.

  • Comment 3, posted at 28.06.11 10:08:23 by Morné Reply
  • How do you propose we stop losing players whose contracts are coming to an end and are getting frozen out of the Bok team?

  • Comment 4, posted at 28.06.11 10:10:12 by war1 Reply
  • @Butchie34 (Comment 1) : Sandy was a lovely scrummie… had such a quick, neat pass.

    I believe he suffered an injury and retired shortly afterwards

  • Comment 5, posted at 28.06.11 10:10:25 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 5) : It’s a real pity, it would have been nice to have him and Charl rotating.

  • Comment 6, posted at 28.06.11 10:11:47 by Butchie34 Reply
  • In about every case, you are breaking up combinations.

    What would be interesting to see is of the 6 combinations (front row, locks, loosies, halfbacks, centers, back three), which of those was kept for more than one season?

  • Comment 7, posted at 28.06.11 10:11:49 by Morné Reply
  • The question is can we make a team of 15 with all those players who left?

  • Comment 8, posted at 28.06.11 10:14:40 by Mocho Reply

  • Kees Lensing was a HUGE misstep. He was signed on for a couple million and then hardly played a game for the senior side and was limited to our Vodacom Cup team.

    Wonder what poor local prop missed out on his development because of Kees.

  • Comment 9, posted at 28.06.11 10:15:30 by Butchie34 Reply
  • The sharkies will always let alot of youngsters go it makes me wonder what is soooooo great about the sharks academy 😕 🙄 like beet says almost every talented rugby kid goes to the bulls why? It’s simple we give our youngsters opportunities in the senior team…we do not tell them um go play club rugby because we have JLP :mrgreen: 😆 we spend ALOT of money in our structures we do not buy the freddie michalaks..andy goodes ect…we purchase a few players who will fit into our family environment..system TEAM PLAYERS 😉 ….i played against ross…guy cronje….mandla dube from st stithians hell i can go on and on i wonder whose next on the list to leave the sharks….to let go of someone like wynand pienaar sends the right message to your lindeques…jordaans indeed 😕
    We have a smart poaching strategy at the bulls Ian swartz…heyneke Meyer mean business i expect a few changes to be announced tommoroow the bulls WILL RISE AGAIN it will not take us another 7 years to be formidable but a few years we now have better resources it will be a smooth transition 😉

  • Comment 10, posted at 28.06.11 10:17:18 by Muzi Reply

  • @Butchie34 (Comment 1) : I was just going to ask about Oupa. Is he staying on for the Currie Cup?

  • Comment 11, posted at 28.06.11 10:25:57 by vanmartin Reply
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  • @vanmartin (Comment 11) : To be honest, I have no idea.I don’t see Marius Joubert sitting on the bench with Oupa still there so I’m actually waiting to hear news that he’s moving on shortly.

  • Comment 12, posted at 28.06.11 10:28:22 by Butchie34 Reply
  • Rob, would it be possible to expand the article: To see who replaced the players that left. Did we replace them with better quality players? Have we still not found apt replacements for them? Also a ‘Where are they now’?

    I remember a couple years back there was a page that had like a transfer table, that was a nice point of reference. Would someone be able to bring something like that forward again?

    As regards the Sharks Academy : Who are the current success stories? Are there palyers we let ‘slip through our hands’? (Who had success at another union)

  • Comment 13, posted at 28.06.11 10:33:53 by Ossa Reply

  • Sharks Exiles XV:
    1.Deon Carstens
    2.Skipper Badenhorst
    3.BJ Botha
    4.Steven Sykes
    5.Johann Muller
    6.Skollie Ndlovu
    7.Justin Downey
    8.Mike Rhodes
    9.Ruan Pienaar
    10.Butch James
    11.Henno Mentz
    12.Brad Barritt
    13.Waylon Murray
    14.Brent Russell
    15.Francois Steyn

    16.Pat Cilliers
    17.Kees Lensing
    18.Johan Snyman
    19.Warren Whiteley
    20.Rory Kockott
    21.Riaan Swanepoel
    22.Andries Strauss/Gcobani Bobo/Chris Jordaan

    Even excluding retired players, that’s a pretty impressive match 22. Pretty well balanced loose trio too, though not spectacular.

  • Comment 14, posted at 28.06.11 10:39:23 by MerckZ Reply

  • @MerckZ (Comment 14) : Not too bad

  • Comment 15, posted at 28.06.11 10:45:07 by Ossa Reply

  • @Muzi (Comment 10) : You paint such a good picture of the mighty Bulls and their family and then you went and spoilt it by writing that they will rise again. Why should it be necessary to rise again if all is so great?

  • Comment 16, posted at 28.06.11 11:00:17 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Ossa (Comment 13) : you’ve just given me fodder for about another 4 articles there… I’ll get working 🙂

  • Comment 17, posted at 28.06.11 11:01:17 by robdylan Reply
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  • Isnt Riaan Swanepoel back for next years Super 15?

  • Comment 18, posted at 28.06.11 11:02:18 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 18) : we don’t know yet, but my info is that it’s unlikely… he wants to make an impact at ASM and stay on post World Cup

  • Comment 19, posted at 28.06.11 11:04:02 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Muzi (Comment 10) : Pssst, Muzi, pssst….

    You’re going against the official party line there bud. Remember the Bulls do not poach players. They recruit players.

    But thanks for finally admitting that on behalf of all the one-eyed Bulls supporters who say they have never bought a player but recruited them and developed them. They like to point out how so few of the Sharks players started out in Natal, even though a fair portion of them did go through the process of developing through the ranks.

    There are a few players who weren’t developed at the Sharks but were bought in but then there’s the same at the Bulls (*cough* Victor Matfield *cough* Bakkies Botha *cough*).

  • Comment 20, posted at 28.06.11 11:05:33 by Butchie34 Reply
  • @Butchie34 (Comment 20) : Griquas? Valke? 🙂

  • Comment 21, posted at 28.06.11 11:07:21 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 17) : Glad to help 🙂

  • Comment 22, posted at 28.06.11 11:10:36 by Ossa Reply

  • Nice one Rob: hits at one of the 2 major reasons for the Sharks Super Rugby mediocrity in recent years (the other is poor coaching/ management).

  • Comment 23, posted at 28.06.11 11:29:16 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 23) : but poor management goes hand in hand with this.

    WHY do these guys leave? Sure, some retired or moved on to a last NH retirement booster package. But many left because they felt they weren’t rated by the current coaches… it’s easy to blame Straueli (and I think he must shoulder some blame because I’m told he doesn’t like to pay market rates for anything) but Plumtree and co need to share the blame very evenly for confusing selection and poor communication too.

  • Comment 24, posted at 28.06.11 11:36:48 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • We wouldn’t have made the playoffs this year with last year’s format, so that little fact makes Plum look better than he should. Overall it has been a downward spiral at the hands of our mate Plum.

  • Comment 25, posted at 28.06.11 12:04:22 by rhineshark Reply
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  • @rhineshark (Comment 25) : I wouldn`t attack Plum. At least we won a CC.

    But I feel our players just aren`t up to SR level.

  • Comment 26, posted at 28.06.11 12:09:52 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 26) : Not attacking him, but the trend is clear for all to see. From finalists in 2007, down to 3rd, then 6th, then 9th and now 6th again.

    I’ve mentioned before that I reckon we’ve become the new Cheetahs. The fact that the Cheetahs won the Currie Cup in 2007 after ending 11th in the Super 14 sort of puts us in the same league – ending 9th in the Super 14 and going on to win the CC.

    It is in itself a sad state of affairs if us Sharks supporters have to point to the Currie Cup as a measure of our success after every Super rugby competition.

  • Comment 27, posted at 28.06.11 12:43:12 by rhineshark Reply
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  • @rhineshark (Comment 27) : Do you want Dick back?

  • Comment 28, posted at 28.06.11 12:51:31 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Original Pierre (Comment 26) : our players aren’t up to SR level?

    Jeez mate… you wanna read that one again?

  • Comment 29, posted at 28.06.11 12:56:19 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Original Pierre (Comment 26) :
    Dude, put the crack pipe down!

    Our players aren’t up to SR level, but are good enough for the Boks? 😯 😆

  • Comment 30, posted at 28.06.11 13:11:49 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Salmonoid (Comment 28) : 😆

    I would welcome any coach with more than a Plan A up his sleave.

  • Comment 31, posted at 28.06.11 13:11:50 by rhineshark Reply
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  • @robdylan:hope straeuli doesn’t try and put a money value on “playing and staying in dbn” when he negotiates with players.if player a is worth x ,then pay him x (if he and his agent don’t want to budge ).don’t tell them staying near the beach and quality of lif is d amount,so let’s subtract that from your x market value. Disappointed if that was the case 🙁 .. Would help if the fans were also packing out the shark tank,that would give straeuli more money in the bank to pay and negotiate [email protected]:could you also show the attendance figures for sr and cc games (average) from 2006_2011 (till 2010 for. cc season)?please.

  • Comment 32, posted at 28.06.11 18:48:26 by bergshark Reply

  • In my humble opinion, I think the sharks will be better off with frans steyn back at the tank..which,in my humble opinion I think he should never have left.

  • Comment 33, posted at 28.06.11 19:47:08 by bergshark Reply

  • Oops,wrong article for that comment

  • Comment 34, posted at 28.06.11 19:48:08 by bergshark Reply

  • Or wait,no,it is actually exactly the right place for that comment 😉

  • Comment 35, posted at 28.06.11 19:49:02 by bergshark Reply


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