Plumtree facing tough choices

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 8 Aug 2011 at 09:10
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The unfortunate thing about last week’s loss to Griquas was that it was bound to happen sooner or later, with the Sharks opting to gamble with a young team when more experienced campaigners were available. Coach John Plumtree will now come under increasing pressure to return those players cut from the Springbok squad to his starting fifteen, post haste.

Don’t get me wrong here – I have believed (and stated quite vocally) that the Sharks have been doing the “right thing” in giving the young players an opportunity to establish themselves. It would have been a wrong move to pack the team with returning Springboks for the trip to Kimberley and not even in hindsight would I have made that call – for two main reasons. The first is that dropping all the kids after going unbeaten through three games would have completely destroyed the morale in the squad, leading to problems later in the campaign should those players be needed again, For all Plumtree knew, he could have lost some or all of the returning players straight back to the Boks this week anyway and it would have been pointless to risk unsettling his team under those circumstances. Perhaps more importantly, though, was that he didn’t really get any players back that would have fundamentally changed the complexion of Friday’s match anyway.

The Sharks lost against Griquas up-front, with the tight five and loose forwards being out-muscled and outplayed on the day. Tight forwards have a lot in common with concrete anyway, in that they need time to become properly hard (I guess the obligatory Viagra joke gets inserted here as well)… the reality, though, is that the Sharks fielded an incredibly green set of props and locks against Griquas – and didn’t do so by choice. While Plumtree was lucky to receive a whole bunch of wingers back, whom he opted not to use, it’s not like he suddenly found his cupboard stocked with experienced tight forwards that he chose to ignore. With Alistair Hargreaves and Ross Skeate both ruled out by injury, the only returning Bok that Plumtree opted not to bring straight into the starting lineup was Ryan Kankowski and I’m sure that even the Hoff’s most ardent fans would find it hard to argue that he would have made an appreciable difference against the forward onslaught from the men in turquoise.

The only other somewhat marginal call, I guess, was the inclusion of Dale Chadwick in the starting lineup ahead of Eugene van Staden, but again, with a pair of locks each properly in the single figures cap-wise (Marais was making his run-on debut) and a tighthead not quite on 20, not even van Staden, who has himself been in poor form recently, would have made much of a difference. No, this defeat was a long time coming and it’s important to move on from it now, having learned the lessons. Panic, and knee-jerk reactions, though, are not needed at this stage.

Much will, no doubt, be discussed over the coming week as Plumtree scratches his head to find the right combinations to take on Western Province in a match that the Sharks really do need to win in order to stay close to the top of the log. The past cannot be changed, though and I feel that the Sharks should resist the urge to introduce sweeping changes, rather weighing up each selection decision on its merits. Throwing away all the young players now, in other words, might help us to a few short-term Currie Cup wins, but ultimately does little to strengthen the squad ahead of Super Rugby next year.


  • Rain expected for Friday in CPT or atleast wet underfoot or wet under fin IMO :mrgreen: πŸ˜† :mrgreen:

  • Comment 1, posted at 08.08.11 11:11:02 by Charlie Reply
  • Agree fully with your arti Rob…
    No panic buttons to be pushed….

  • Comment 2, posted at 08.08.11 11:27:56 by Franshark Reply
  • I would like to see ST moving back to FB,(assuming that plum will not opt to take Stef to the bench) even if it means loosing one off the promising wings to the bench, with Mich and Mcleod available I would like to see Lambi and Mich playing at 10/12 and Adi at 13…

  • Comment 3, posted at 08.08.11 11:33:27 by Franshark Reply
  • Reading Plum’s comments after the game it seems like he will be rushing all of the returning Boks back into the team this weekend. That is a little disappointing. It is easy to back the youngsters when things are going well but when things go badly then you retreat back into conservative selection policies.

  • Comment 4, posted at 08.08.11 11:40:16 by war1 Reply
  • I agree 100% that the game was lost upfront against Griquas. We need a solid core of experience in the tight 5, so hopefully 1 of either Skeate or Hargreaves (or both) will be fit. Without reinforcement in that area I don’t see us getting enough clean ball to pose a threat.
    The backline youngsters have done really well, so I wouldn’t mess around with the young blood on the wings. Lambie needs to start though, so maybe at 12 wouldn’t be a bad idea this week.

  • Comment 5, posted at 08.08.11 11:41:05 by Greg Reply

  • @Greg (Comment 5) : Hargreaves and Skeate would not give us a strong core in our tight five. Anton needs to keep developing and dare I say it we are desperately missing Sykes and Mostert.

  • Comment 6, posted at 08.08.11 11:51:09 by war1 Reply
  • @war1 (Comment 4) : I think you may be reading a bit much into what Plum said…

  • Comment 7, posted at 08.08.11 11:55:29 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : To be honest, I hope I am too. We need to get morale up with a very tough game coming up.

  • Comment 8, posted at 08.08.11 11:57:52 by war1 Reply
  • @war1 (Comment 6) : Agree we are missing Mostert and Sykes. Hargreaves has international experience, Skeate has played overseas and super rugby. They both add a lot to the pack and are needed. Bresler will have his time. IMHO of course

  • Comment 9, posted at 08.08.11 11:59:26 by Greg Reply

  • @Greg (Comment 9) : Anton is the closest thing we have to a tight lock. Playing Hargreaves and Skeate together will be pretty much suicidal against a team like Province.

  • Comment 10, posted at 08.08.11 12:15:27 by war1 Reply
  • @war1 (Comment 10) : Bresler is also playing good rugga at this moment

  • Comment 11, posted at 08.08.11 12:34:47 by Franshark Reply
  • @war1 (Comment 10) : Playing Hargreaves is suicidal in itself.

    Its painful to watch our current centre combinations knowing what lies in our junior stocks.
    Too many sentimental selections been made. I feel alot of time is been wasted on Bosman. How long do you need to persist with someone before you realise your investement isnt producing what you expected/hoped for.

    Terblanche to 15 or the bench
    Why not even try JLP at 12?
    Although now that Lambie is back I would try him at 12 temporarily with Michalak. Hate to have him anywhere but at 10, but now its clear we buy individuals without thinking of their role in a team/combo environment.

  • Comment 12, posted at 08.08.11 12:39:56 by chucky Reply

  • @Franshark (Comment 11) : Yup

  • Comment 13, posted at 08.08.11 12:40:27 by war1 Reply
  • My two cents’ worth…

    Personally I wouldn’t mess about with the front row; van Staden has not really hit form yet, so use the opportunity to blood the youngsters.

    Ditto for locks; Bresler and Marais add more grunt that Skeate and Hargreaves, and it’s not like either Ali H or Skeate were major kingpins in the lineouts in the Super 15.

    As for loosies, I would maybe try Hoff at 8, with Keegan at 6, Coetzee at 7. Still a tad undecided…

    Also not sure about dropping CronjΓ©; while I’m not entirely sold on him, at this point I’m all for giving the young guns an extended run.

    So, Fred stays on at 10 then.

    As for centers, I’d be tempted to try any one- or both of Lambie at 12 and Adi at 13. Yeah, yeah, pipe down, I know Lambie’s future is at 10, and players get ruined by not being allowed to settle, etc. etc. etc., but most top flyhalves served apprenticeships at 12, outside established 10’s (Giteau/Larkham, Carter/Mehrthens, James/Townsend), so a little proper communication is all that is required for Lambierghini to take it in his stride. Alternatively, give the Williams/Lindeque combo a run. But do it as a combo so that they at least know each other.

    Back three unchanged.

  • Comment 14, posted at 08.08.11 12:40:42 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song
  • @Culling Song (Comment 14) : Not too bad.

    The thing that really gets my blood boiling how Stef doesnt seem to notice anyone on his outside? three opportunities went a begging for sburra sithole and ludick because he refuses to pass. He was chosen ahead of Murray at 13 but what he has showed at 13 is almost identical to murray with that side ways running and rarely straightening.

    He has served this team it is now time for him to work his way out via the bench.

  • Comment 15, posted at 08.08.11 12:48:27 by chucky Reply

  • Culling Song aggree with you on all points!

  • Comment 16, posted at 08.08.11 12:58:52 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette
  • Agree :mrgreen:

  • Comment 17, posted at 08.08.11 13:06:16 by JarsonX Reply
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  • Chucky I love Stef, but I’m afraid I have to agree with you on that point:(

  • Comment 18, posted at 08.08.11 13:09:02 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette
  • @chucky (Comment 12) : I disagree on Hargreaves. He is a good player and should start wit Anton if he is fit. Skeate and Hargreaves are both good players but won’t work as a combo.

  • Comment 19, posted at 08.08.11 13:21:56 by war1 Reply
  • @chucky (Comment 15) :
    Its seriously time Stef got relegated to the bench. Perhaps even out of the 22 entirely.
    He has served the Sharks well but his time to disappear has arrived.

  • Comment 20, posted at 08.08.11 13:52:44 by John Galt Reply

    John Galt
  • @John Galt (Comment 20) : whateer the case, Plum is going to have to leave some big names out this weekend…

    McLeod, Cronje, Lambie, Michalak, Bosman, Terblanche, Joubert, Jacobs, Potgieter, Mvovo, Ndungane, Ludik, Richards, Sithole…

    How do you get those 14 guys into just 10 jerseys?

  • Comment 21, posted at 08.08.11 13:54:52 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 21) :
    I said earlier that the only thing keeping me interested in this years CC, in a world cup year, is the fact that coaches can afford to and are playing their youngsters.

    Would this not be the most opportune time to look for other options in different positions? I can tell right now, a lot of folks wont be too interested in the CC once the World Cup starts.
    I would be looking at new 12,13,14,11 options with Stef, Odwa, Bosman, Jacobs, Joubert etc either past it or seriously out of form.

  • Comment 22, posted at 08.08.11 14:03:17 by John Galt Reply

    John Galt
  • @John Galt (Comment 22) : I still have a soft spot for Adi… and this is what I’d like to see…

    9 McLeod, 10 Michalak, 11 Mvovo, 12 Lambie, 13 Jacobs, 14 Sithole, 15 Ludik

    20 Cronje, 21 Joubert 22 Richards

  • Comment 23, posted at 08.08.11 14:14:12 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 23) : Would also like to see that!

  • Comment 24, posted at 08.08.11 14:47:37 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @robdylan (Comment 23) :
    Yes please!

  • Comment 25, posted at 08.08.11 15:24:46 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @robdylan (Comment 23) :
    Yeah ok, perhaps a bit harsh on Adi. That looks a much better backline.

  • Comment 26, posted at 08.08.11 15:26:32 by John Galt Reply

    John Galt
  • @John Galt (Comment 26) : it does, doesn’t it?

  • Comment 27, posted at 08.08.11 15:37:53 by robdylan Reply
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  • Odders at 14…..Sorry, but I would have Odders in there before Mvovo.

  • Comment 28, posted at 08.08.11 16:38:03 by Dancing Bear Reply
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    Dancing Bear
  • Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but I’d just like to throw something out there into the ether…
    Now then. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Le Francais (Monsieur Michalak) was ostensibly brought in to offer depth at scrumhalf (cough) and to fill the No10 shirt while its incumbent (Mr Lambie) was away on Bok duty… N’est pas? (in other words, right so far?)
    OK then. Did anybody actually consider in all of this that Mr Lambie might not go on Bok duty? And was I the only person (at the time) to ask the pertinent question as to what happens to said wunderkind if the unthinkable happens (in other words, does he spend the Currie Cup on the bench?)
    Yes, yes, yes. Oui, mesdames et monsieures, I know SuperPat can play at 10, 12 and 15. And I know that he really doesn’t mind playing in any of those positions… But the question has to be asked: what now with the No 10?
    OK. So we stick with Fred and play Pat elsewhere… What happens when Fred goes home and Pat has had no decent time at flyhalf for virtually an entire season?
    Personally, and this is merely an observation, there seems to be a little bit of the proverbial fingers in the dyke going on here… We are so preoccupied with the next game, and the next game, that we are not planning properly for the future.
    There was not a man, woman or anything in between anywhere who would have stood up and said “move Pat to centre…” after last year’s CC final. So what’s changed? Enough of “he’s still learning, he’s not got a lot of experience, he’s still young…” because I’ve heard it ad nauseum.
    It’s actually time that everyone sorted out exactly what Pat is… Is he a flyhalf? Is he a utility back? Never mind that he’s talented, never mind that he’s got the ability to play all three aforementioned positions… Where is actually BEST to play him, continue to play him and, MOST importantly, GROW him as a player?
    You all know where my feelings lie on this point, because, quite simply, I think Pat is best at flyhalf. It’s where he sees the most action and has the biggest impact on the game. It’s where he WINS games. And where he has been growing, consistently, the best.
    With Pat at No 10 we have the makings of the next Daniel Carter and a real world-beater who will easily outshine the very best the game has yet offered.
    The alternatives don’t bear thinking about in my book… unless we do what the Wallabies have done with James O’Connor and shift him to the wing? But then we’d need a Will Genia and a Quade Cooper to give him great ball.
    Let’s stop looking short term here, and start thinking further ahead before Pat is consigned to the role of the best flyhalf we never had…
    Just because we can play him somewhere else doesn’t mean that we should.

  • Comment 29, posted at 08.08.11 16:38:06 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • @SharonvanWyk (Comment 29) : Shaz, the only option is not to switch him to wing ala O’Conner. 12 is an option, and getting game time at 12 with Freddie inside him can serve well to develop Pat into the next Dan Carter. I honestly do not think that a season or two at 12 outside a world class 10 like Freddie (with loads of experience) will hurt Pat at all, in fact, I think it will help him develop into a great 10.

  • Comment 30, posted at 08.08.11 16:42:28 by Dancing Bear Reply
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    Dancing Bear
  • @SharonvanWyk (Comment 29) : I think you’re overreacting and placing the (perceived) needs of your favourite player ahead of those of the team…

  • Comment 31, posted at 08.08.11 16:46:48 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 30) : I can see your point, and understand it well enough. But I disagree. The only thing that will grow him as a No 10 is to consistently play him in that position. There is no harm in occasionally asking him to do duty elsewhere on the field for the sake of the team (a la the SupeRugby cruncher against the Bulls) but to truly allow him to fulfil his potential as a flyhalf he needs all of the experience he can get in that position or run the risk of becoming a jack of all trades, master of none.
    Pat is the sort of player who thrives on responsibility… the more you give him the better he does. There comes a point where experience HAS to take second place to talent, and development of talent, otherwise it is not sustainable. To become experienced, you need experience. Pat will never become an experienced flyhalf if he is moved like a spare piece of furniture to fill inconvenient gaps in the room. He deserves more.

  • Comment 32, posted at 08.08.11 16:51:44 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 31) : Au contraire. I think the needs of the team are foremost in my mind, but in the longterm, not just in what happens next week, or next month. Fred is not going to be around forever, and we have been more than caught off guard in the past by having insufficient depth in certain positions – the very same lack of depth which saw Pat moved to FH.
    At some point we are going to need to make a call on Pat. My feeling is that we should do it sooner rather than later in order to best serve the long-term interests of the team.
    My (perceived) preferences for Pat aside, I felt exactly the same about Frans Steyn and will feel exactly the same about any other talented player with ability in more than one position.

  • Comment 33, posted at 08.08.11 16:57:13 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • @SharonvanWyk (Comment 33) : when a guy’s young, he needs to be flexible… once you’re established, then by all means, you can start to shout the odds a bit more.

    BTW, have you seen that Eddie Jones now reckons Pat should play at fullback? πŸ™‚

  • Comment 34, posted at 08.08.11 17:14:23 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 34) : I hear you. But at what point do we say that he’s “established”?
    I’m all for flexibility ( πŸ˜† ) but again, there must come a time when someone needs to decide “OK. Pat’s a centre/fullback/flyhalf” and cement him in that position.
    Pat really doesn’t mind (which is somewhat flumoxing) where he plays, and to be honest I’d like to see what he’s got at 12, but what I’m trying to say is that for him to grow properly into any position and fulfil his potential in it, he needs to play in that position consistently.
    My preference is at 10. Others prefer 15 or think 12. Whatever the number, he’s only going to really excel when he plays there for a long period of time. In my opinion, of course. :mrgreen: PS: Did you get my email?

  • Comment 35, posted at 08.08.11 17:47:44 by SharonvanWyk Reply
  • I enjoyed reading this page. There were so good arguments and points presented here.

    To state the obvious:
    There’s an ongoing rugby evolution happening before our eyes. You won’t miss it if you blink but over the course of a few seasons, it’s obvious and expected that youngsters replace older players at some point along the way. In some instances they’re homegrown products, in other cases imports. I guess there are a number of factors which determine success in this regard of which the timing of the transition and the ability of the player to step up to the challenge are crucial.

    This year the Stormers were able to throw a number of youngsters into the deep end and with the assistance of the experienced players around them, they held their own (most of the time).

    I think the Sharks are going about things in a well balanced manner at the moment. The players promoted to the Currie Cup team have earned the right to have a shot and going forward we need to adopt some kind of a rotation system so that they can continue to play alongside experienced players without our C/C ambitions being dented but I’m not sure if contracts/money will give us the flexibility to bench or not dress top players on a weekly basis.

    I’m also concerned about our lack of succession in the midfield.

    And I don’t think we should turn a blind-eye to opportunities to recruit value adding players either. If it’s felt that a younger player is still a season away from holding down a place in the SR squad or will never make the grade as a Shark or if we’re concerned about depth, bring in the players like we have with Alberts, Mostert, Jannie etc. We just saw a good performance by Hendrik Roodt over the weekend. Who knows, he could be the difference between ending 2nd in the conference or coming 1st.

  • Comment 36, posted at 08.08.11 19:13:56 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @robdylan (Comment 34) : @SharonvanWyk (Comment 35) : Hey Rob. I’m concerned that the voice of Sharksworld is backtracking a bit. Last year I thought we’d reached a passionate consensus that Lambie was born to play no.10. Now I’m worried that we’re beginning to look the gift horse you know where.
    Over the year’s we’ve struggled to find a good no.10, now we have a 100% homegrown world class player to fill the role.
    A big criticism of the Sharks by outsiders is that we mess young players around. Frans Steyn and Ruan Pienaar are often noted as being our 2 latest greatest failures. πŸ˜›

    So I agreed with Shaz when she stuck to her guns.

    Lambie for no.10 just like the Crusaders would do for Carter even when they had Slade or the Reds would have done for Cooper had Barnes stayed. iow Freddy to the bench.

  • Comment 37, posted at 08.08.11 19:20:09 by beet Reply
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