Culling Song

The Utopian Ideal

Written by André Meyer (Culling Song)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Sharks on 8 Jul 2011 at 08:50
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With the Currie Cup looming, and the bitter taste from the Super 15 still lingering like the memory of a surprise SARS audit, I decided to, in the spirit of scientific enquiry, revisit the parallel world (henceforth referred to as Utopia) I encountered a few weeks ago* to see what the alternative Sharks were up to. I must say, even though I knew it had worked before, I don’t mind telling you that it was with some trepidation that I stood once again on the brink of the vat of liquid lysergic acid diethylamide, plugged-in toaster clutched tightly to my chest, preparing to jump… But, as you can see from the fact that you’re reading this article, I escaped the ordeal more or les unscathed bar for some distortion and a certain brightness of colour affecting my peripheral vision. The necessary price to pay in the pursuit of knowledge, I guess.

*For those of you that missed it last time round, what happened was that after a small mishap in my …er… let’s call it a pharmaceutical research facility and leave it at that, I wound up in a parallel dimension similar to ours in many ways, but also differing in some aspects. Suffice to say it was quite an enlightening experience. Now back to the story!

As I reported last time, I once again found Utopia to be mostly devoid of the cynicism that seems to be such an ingrained part of our lives in the 21st century. Over there, kids still believe in the existence of Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, Paris Hilton and other mythological creatures, adults still believe that public institutions exist to serve the greater good, and the security staff at Kings Park believed my press pass to be genuine. When asked about the fact that it looked like something drawn by a pre-school kid, I simply said that it was a design choice by my publisher, meant to deliver commentary on the slick soullessness of modern consumer culture through the use of irony, and after the briefest of pauses was waved through faster than you can say gullible.

After gaining entrance to the hallowed halls of Kings Park, I initially wandered rather aimlessly, gleaning random snippets of information from passers-by, from which I could gather that something of a shake-up had taken place at the Sharks. However, I couldn’t get any further details, until, through sheer good fortune I found my way onto the playing field, where I found John Plumtree kicking back in a deck chair, beer in hand, casting an eye over the training activities playing out on the paddock. Ever-gracious, he invited me to join him for a brew and a chat. Below follows the conversation, more or less verbatim, although I have in places taken some editorial liberties for the sake of clarity.

Utopian John Plumtree: Hey! You’re that reporter from, um, I think you called it “Earth 1”? I’ve been looking out for your publication, but haven’t seen it anywhere; it must be seriously niche. Haven’t seen you around since, what was it, the Cheetahs game? Never mind. Care for a beer? Come, join me.

Sharksworld: Uh, thanks, that’s mighty kind of you! I must say, you have a remarkable memory!

UJP: Yeah, well, you don’t run across too many sepia-toned journalists with misshapen heads the size of laundry baskets and hands constantly engaged in the act of clutching their eye sockets. Kind of sticks with a person, know what I mean?

SW: Uh yeah, I guess so… So anyways, what’s up here at Sharks HQ? I get the sense there’s been a lot of new behind the scenes developments of late.

UJP: *Chuckles* You have a gift for understatement! But you are right; we’ve changed quite a lot here over the last few weeks…

SW: How come?

UJP: Thing is, even though we won the local conference, dominating all local opposition (yes, yes, pipe down Stormers supporters, this is an alternative reality, remember?), it’s also true that once again we failed to come away with higher honours in the recent Super Rugby series. You know the adage about insanity being defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Well, that’s pretty much what we came away with following an extensive post-mortem done at the conclusion of the season.

Also, I can’t remember if a told you about this blog site Sharksworld? Yes? Well, I’m a big fan. Those guys are hilarious! But you know what they say about the truth being said in jest, and so it is that there are often kernels of wisdom to be found on that site.

So basically, those two things got us looking at what the successful teams in that competition have been doing; the Crusaders, and more recently the Bulls have been pretty dominant, and Province has shown remarkable growth in a short time. Also, I obviously still have pretty close ties with a lot of guys in New Zeeland, and so I also looked at what the All Blacks team did after the disappointment of the last World Cup.

SW: OK, so with that in mind, what have you done?

UJP: Basically, we did three things. Firstly, we changed the coaching staff around a bit; we sort of shook things up a bit and moved people out of their comfort zones to give everyone a fresh challenge and perspective. We’re also looking at succession planning and the continuous development of all our coaches, and we want to ensure a uniform approach across all levels. Secondly, we took out the cheque book in a big way…

SW: More player recruitments? *rolls eyes*

UJP: Nope, quite the contrary! Rather, we looked at bolstering our stocks with regards to intellectual capital and/or specialist knowledge… Are you OK?

SW: Sorry, sorry, I came over a bit faint there, thought for a moment I heard you say you were bringing in specialists coaches…

UJP: That’s pretty much the gist of it, yes… are you sure you’re OK?

SW: Just give me a minute; I just need my head to stop spinning… OK, and the third thing?

UJP: We decided to focus first and foremost on developing and assessing players currently within the various Sharks structures with the eye on next year’s Super Rugby tournament, with recruitment only being considered once we have thoroughly evaluated the quality and depth of our own stocks… I see you seem to have fallen down again? Beer too strong for you?

SW: Yeah, that must be it… So how do the suits feel about all of this? Surely this will jeopardise your Currie Cup campaign?

UJP: Well, it might, but you never know how this things might plays out. Fact is, with the World Cup taking place this year, the Currie Cup is pretty diluted. Also, although we are reigning Currie Cup champions, it is also true that it just does not have the same sort of prestige as the Super Rugby trophy. So really, if ever there was a time to be brave a try out new things; this is it. Sure, it could be a disaster, but even then we’ll have learnt a thing or two. And fortunatelt the board bought into that vision.

SW: So, about the movement of the coaches?

UJP: Well, Sean Everett has been coaching at junior levels now for some time, so we decided to give him more responsibility, and so we placed him in charge of the Currie Cup campaign. Just to make sure that it’s not a total case of being thrown in the deep end, as support staff we managed to rope in Balie Swart as forwards coach, and David Campese as backs coach. Campo is short term at this moment, but we’re talking to him.

SW: What about Grant Bashford and Hugh Reece-Edwards?

UJP: They’ve both been assistant coaches for a while now, so we decided to give them each their own ship to run, just to see how it goes. The U-21’s for Grant, and the U-19’s for Hugh. We’ve also given them some support in the form of Deon Kayser for Grant, as Grant’s more familiar with forward play, and Adrian Garvey, who’s been lurking around here for a while now to help out Hugh.

SW: What’s happened to Ryan Strudwick?

UJP: He’s overseeing the junior rugby as a whole, offering technical and tactical inputs, and ensuring that there’s a unified approach so that players elevated from one age group to the next can transition smoothly.

SW: Wow, that’s a remarkably clear-sighted approach… It’s quite a costly investment in age group rugby though?

UJP: Yeah, it is, but you know, we haven’t had a great success rate at converting juniors into successful members on the senior squad, so nothing risked, nothing gained I suppose…

SW: Now, about the specialists?

UJP: As mentioned, we’ve contracted Balie Swart, and then Campo on the short term (although we’re hoping to change that). We’ve also brought in Brendan Venter, again on the short term, as defensive consultant, and we’re currently shopping around for a long-term replacement. Ditto for a mental coach… Here, let me help you up. Also, you may remember that in 2008 during the Currie Cup we brought in a martial artist with the aim of teaching the guys hand-off and contact skills, with great success too. Well, we brought him in again, as well as a basketball coach, who teaches the guys a variety of ball skills, spatial and positional awareness, as well as some peripheral vision improvement drills.

SW: …Frankly, I’m speechless… And your role in all of this?

UJP: As I mentioned earlier, all of this is aimed at attaining Super Rugby success. So my role is basically to prepare for that tournament. That involves me spending as much time as possible with the consultants, learning everything I possibly can. I will also be going on a couple of specialist courses. Moreover, I have to evaluate the contribution and performance of the various coaches and consultants, and decide who the right people are for the 2012 campaign, and what other areas we need to bolster with additional resources. Importantly, I have to look at player succession and depth, and use this tournament to evaluate the various youngsters’ readiness to step up, failing which we will then have to recruit externally.

SW: Whoaw, quite a mouthful! Let’s talk about the succession planning and recruitment; any specific policies or approaches you are following?

UJP: Basically, we have given all the guys who have played more than a specific number of minutes during the Super 15 a mandatory 4 week break from the Currie Cup, during which time we will only fill their positions with players from our own ranks. After that, we will then decide which juniors we want to invest further in, and they will then be given additional game time, either as starting players or from the bench positions, with the understanding that anyone playing off the bench will be given a minimum of 30 minutes game time, regardless of whether the game is in the balance or not. The guys need to be assessed both in terms of playing ability and mental aptitude, so it’s actually good to have them under a bit of pressure.

To ensure that we follow a holistic approach, we will be also holding combined skills and technical training sessions for all age groups a few times a week, where our specialist coaches will ensure consistent skills levels exist throughout the Sharks structure. We have an agreement with local clubs that Vodacom cup players currently not part of an age group or the senior squad are also included in these sessions, once again so that if we need anyone to step up they’re not all at sea, so to speak.

SW: Great to see you guys backing our own talent! You did mention recruitment though…?

UJP: Yeah, yeah, one thing this Super 15 has shown us is that depth, and the shrewd use of that depth will be crucial to success, so it is unlikely that we will be able to build the required squad completely from our own ranks. So we’re also using the Currie Cup as trial to establish our depth in all areas, and only then will we recruit, along specific guidelines.

SW: Guidelines such as…?

UJP: Well, we’ve capped the age limit on recruitments at 26, with the exception of the front row, where it is commonly acknowledged that the guys only hit their peak closer to their 30’s. Fortunately though, we appear to be reasonably well covered in that area. But basically we’re targeting younger players with proven potential rather than old campaigners.

SW: I like that approach! In fact, I like pretty much everything you’ve told me! All of this must cost quite a bit though?

UJP: Well, yes, although we’re obviously saving due to the moratorium on recruitment. But we do need to be mindful that we will recruit in future, and so we’ll need some cash then. Fortunately the Sharks union is financially strong, but to generate an additional income stream we came up with an ingenious little plan…

SW: Do tell…

UJP: Well, we formed a front company, and then put word out on that keo website that we had an illicit audio recording of the Bok coaching staff having an off the record discussion on why the Sharks will never be successful, why our players are not able to step up to the plate, and why John Smit is totally overrated and sure to fail at the World Cup, and that copies of the tape were up for sale at R250…

SW: But surely that is a total fabrication…?

UJP: Oh absolutely! But that didn’t stop the guys from that website almost trampling one another in their eagerness to get their grubby mitts on a copy. So anyways, once the guys had deposited their money, we sent them a mail stating that we had taken legal counsel, and based on that decided that the potential risks are too great, and so we would be refunding them. Here’s the clever part though: we refunded them by means of cheque, and we had special cheques printed which stated that the refund was from “Fairies Wear Boots: Your One-Stop Gay Bondage Porn Warehouse”. Pretty much no one was willing to have that appear on their bank statements it appears, and so no cheques were deposited! Kind of amazing really, being that they’re mostly Stormers supporters and all, but regardless, we kept the money! And we did to those guys at keo what they’ve been doing to us for ages now! AND we worked a Black Sabbath song title into the scam! Sweet!! *breaks out the air guitar and starts riffing madly*

SW: John? …er… John!? OK, nevermind…

So there you have it, the latest update from the parallel Sharks universe. Certainly some food for thought, and it’s good to know that somewhere out there, there is a Sharks union where progressive thoughts, bravery and adventurousness is valued… I’m certainly going to follow their campaign with keen interest, and will report on what I witness. Cheers!


  • Ha, ha….Terry Pratchett is that you?
    Rename this place SharksDiscworld

    Great read, CS. You deserve a bigger audience.

  • Comment 1, posted at 08.07.11 09:21:41 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • Great read Culling!!! 😆

  • Comment 2, posted at 08.07.11 09:21:52 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Just one question, How many tapes did Grant10 buy and did he deposit his refund cheques?

  • Comment 3, posted at 08.07.11 09:23:20 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • Rob I reckon you should send this to the Sharks management.

  • Comment 4, posted at 08.07.11 09:23:22 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Hey CS if you ever need some company on one of your trips to the parallel universe…’ve got my number!

  • Comment 5, posted at 08.07.11 09:25:21 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 4) : While reading this I kept on thinking that CS should be doing something for Naas’s online magazine.

  • Comment 6, posted at 08.07.11 09:25:29 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 6) :

    Naas can’t handle CS….trust me!

  • Comment 7, posted at 08.07.11 09:26:45 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 7) : But I think his subscribers will be able to.

  • Comment 8, posted at 08.07.11 09:28:21 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 3) : Now now, play nice!

  • Comment 9, posted at 08.07.11 09:29:54 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 9) : OK then only tell me how many tapes he bought?

  • Comment 10, posted at 08.07.11 09:36:30 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 9) : I actually believe that Grant10 can take it as much as he gives it out.

  • Comment 11, posted at 08.07.11 09:41:01 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 1) : For all his many good qualities, Terry does have one failing – he’s a fan of that round ball game…

  • Comment 12, posted at 08.07.11 09:50:13 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 4) : I don’t need to. They will find it

  • Comment 13, posted at 08.07.11 09:52:43 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 12) : Which team?

  • Comment 14, posted at 08.07.11 10:10:34 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • CS, you are a superb writer.

    Enjoyed the humour, but let’s not miss that the article is full of good advice as well.

    Great job!

  • Comment 15, posted at 08.07.11 10:15:47 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • Ever thought of writing a fiction novel? Great job, funny as hell. 😛

  • Comment 16, posted at 08.07.11 10:22:04 by Jarson (AddicteD) Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 14) : Not sure. Basing my grand pronouncement on the fact that his most recent book dealt with football, and he just seemed to understand the fan psyche too well not to be one. I may be way off the mark.

  • Comment 17, posted at 08.07.11 10:23:45 by Culling Song Reply
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  • Oh, and I enjoyed the Fear and Loathing toaster-in-the-bath-tub nod at the beginning! 😆

  • Comment 18, posted at 08.07.11 10:25:26 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Jarson (AddicteD) (Comment 16) : Not sure if I have the time, attention span or repository of ideas to write a book. It’s one thing writing a short article criticising existing situations, but another kettle of fish to come up with something completely original!

  • Comment 19, posted at 08.07.11 10:27:31 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 18) : Maybe I should have changed the Black Sabbath to Jefferson Airplane..? Hmmm, I’m slipping up…

  • Comment 20, posted at 08.07.11 10:29:26 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 19) : U don’t have to right it in a month, you can take a few years 😉 I cant even get myself to write a short article 😳

  • Comment 21, posted at 08.07.11 10:33:13 by Jarson (AddicteD) Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 5) : Deal!!

  • Comment 22, posted at 08.07.11 10:36:22 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 22) : 😀

  • Comment 23, posted at 08.07.11 10:48:48 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Some great insight there inbetween the real world and your uhhmmm – whatchamacallit world!!

    Thanks CS – enjoy your “aweregse” humour – although I have to sit with google dictionary open on another tab! 😆 😉

  • Comment 24, posted at 08.07.11 10:57:19 by Ice Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 22) :

    I’m looking forward to see which whisky you’ve managed to procure for us for the tasting of the 21st.

    The month between meetings feel way too long. Maybe an item we need to add to the agenda. 😀

  • Comment 25, posted at 08.07.11 12:16:12 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 25) : Generally it is 4 weeks between meetings, but this time round it’s worked out as 5; I am starting to show withdrawal symptoms!

  • Comment 26, posted at 08.07.11 13:52:08 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Ice (Comment 24) : Aweregse – ai, dis darem ‘n mooi woord!

  • Comment 27, posted at 08.07.11 13:52:49 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 26) :

    No wonder it feels so long. Did you arrange any astronomical events for the 21st?

  • Comment 28, posted at 08.07.11 13:56:58 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 26) :

    Should we watch some rugby together tomorrow since we can’t stuff it up in any way?

  • Comment 29, posted at 08.07.11 13:59:12 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 28) : Nah, had to pull in all the favours to get the lunar eclipse arranged last time.

    @Pokkel (Comment 29) : Can’t, have the in-laws here from Botswana until Sunday

  • Comment 30, posted at 08.07.11 14:06:06 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 30) :

    We can always do it next week when the Bulls play the Sharks! 😈

  • Comment 31, posted at 08.07.11 14:08:23 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 31) : Sounds like a plan!

  • Comment 32, posted at 08.07.11 14:14:05 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 32) :

    That was easier than I thought.

    I suppose it isn’t a final.

  • Comment 33, posted at 08.07.11 14:15:16 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 33) : I’ve emotionally disinvested from the Sharks. If they win, fine, if they lose, oh well, one of those things…

    Damn, I came *this* close to actually believing myself there!

  • Comment 34, posted at 08.07.11 14:22:42 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 34) :

    I heard that story all before!!
    You were so emotionally disinvested that you had to cancel your DSTV to prevent yourself from torture.

    It’s shitty when when you get so bloody worked up about sport but we love it all the same.

  • Comment 35, posted at 08.07.11 14:26:52 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Wow! How I wish this was the reality of the Sharks! 🙄

  • Comment 36, posted at 09.07.11 19:08:12 by The Sharks Sharkie Reply
    The Sharks Sharkie

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