Leading the pack

Written by Morné Nortier (Morné)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 3 Jan 2012 at 09:59
Tagged with : , ,

Of all the challenges that face the Sharks and Sharks coach John Plumtree, the issue of captaincy is one he cannot afford to stuff up.

As with all my previous columns that deals with the subject of captaincy, I cannot stress enough how important it is for any coach and team to make the right choice.

Unlike a game plan, team selection or team strategy, it is a choice you are more or less stuck with for a whole season or campaign with little to no chance of backing down or out of the decision.

My position on captaincy is also the same it has been since 1995, you pick your captain first, and the team around him.

There are a million things a coach needs to take into consideration when weighing up his options, and since every single team environment is different there is unfortunately no generic check-list you can use.  Above all else however, there is one aspect that supersedes all else – a captain is an extension of the coach and coaching staff to the players, and also an extension of the squad back to the coach.

If there is one thing any coach must realize it should be the enormous influence he will have on his team if he picks the right candidate.  It is impossible for any coach to sell his vision and goals effectively to a squad of over 30 players – but if he manages to ‘sell’ it to his captain, who in turn sells it to the senior members of the squad and eventually down to every last member, you will have a team with immense synergy and a single vision or goal.  In turn, the right captain will have the respect and trust of 99% of the players ensuring the coaching staff remains in touch with the needs and concerns of all players.

The reality of the modern day rugby coach is that 80% of their time is spent in meeting rooms behind whiteboards and television screens analyzing and devising plays and plans for the team which leaves them little to no time to deal with individual player issues and concerns.  In other words, spreading the remaining (hypothetical) 20% of time on 30 players will give them less than 1% of quality time – but spending or spreading that 20% with his captain and a couple of senior players will ensure quality (time spent).

Importantly, and this goes without saying, when the coach is removed from the team in an actual game, it is imperative that the team plans and back-up plans are followed and this can only be done by a captain and his core leadership group within the team but also ONLY if he believes in those plans and strategies.

For the Sharks you will again have a classic case of picking the best candidate, or the best player.

Debates will once again range from picking a player who commands a starting spot or is the best in the squad or country, to a player who can keep things together when it matters (on and off the field).

There is also a very fine line between picking someone who is a favourite amongst players (and fans) and someone who commands the respect of his peers.

Plumtree should also make peace with the fact not everybody will generally agree with his choice of captain, but it is vitally important that he remembers this must be his choice, and not one decided through a popularity poll.

It also does not matter if the candidates in question are capped Springboks or even incumbents in the national team – after all, this is the Sharks and not the Springboks and there are Super Rugby and Currie Cup titles up for grabs, not test victories or titles.

Under Plumtree captaincy has been a bit of an issue in the past where one got the feeling players were not entirely sure of their roles within the team.  It is something in my view he has to avoid at all costs this year.

So before Plum concerns himself with issues such as fitness, selections, strategies and game plans, he needs to make what would arguably the most important decision of the Sharks 2012 campaign, and that is picking HIS captain – and for those who are interested in my personal choice for this role, I would look no further than Keegan Daniel – but I will leave that up for debate below…


  • I’d back Daniel, but he has to step up and show that he wants to be captain. He disappeared a bit in the Currie Cup when the going got tough, and I think there are going to be plenty of tough times in this insane Super Rugby season. I’ll make Lambie vice captain though. It’ll give him time to grow into the responsibility role.

    Other than them? Probably Alberts or Hargreaves.

  • Comment 1, posted at 03.01.12 10:04:17 by PTAShark Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • There isn’t one player that really stands out for me as a possible captain but I’m not convinced that Keegan is “THE ONE”

  • Comment 2, posted at 03.01.12 10:04:22 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Great read Morne, as always.

    It is a difficult one to call, but I get the feeling with Keegan being able to actually lead the squad on his own, with Stefan in the background no longer there, could make the difference.

    He will have to step up though!

  • Comment 3, posted at 03.01.12 10:11:23 by Richard Ferguson Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    Richard Ferguson
  • bismarck 😛

  • Comment 4, posted at 03.01.12 10:14:32 by rekinek Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition Winner Author
  • @rekinek (Comment 4) : With you there.

    He needs to redeem himself after the CC final last year. The extra responsibility of captaincy might just be the little spark he needs to produce his best again.

  • Comment 5, posted at 03.01.12 10:21:32 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • Couple of reasons I back Keegan.

    The guy has become part of the furniture at Kings Park. He is known and relates well to all players in the squad, senior boys (Boks) but most importantly the more junior lads too.

    When it comes to form Keegan has been for a long time one of the most underrated players in SA. He has unfortunately fallen into the trap of becoming a versatile player and add South Africans’ love affair with size, never managed to settle and own one position. And I reckon he could own (in the Sharks setup) 6, 7 or 8 if given the opportunity.

    The guy communicates well, is very much in touch with fans and obviously players alike. I cannot think that both senior players and juniors doesn’t respect him as an individual and player alike.

    I would not read too much on Keegan’s form in last year’s CC either. It must have been one of the lightest and most inexperienced packs the Sharks have fielded for most of the campaign in years! Also, Keegan had to change between all three loosie positions almost every single game – and although he is more than capable of player all three, the role of each position changes quite a bit which means he had a hell of a lot more on his plate to deal with than just lead an inexperienced team.

    Of course most will argue that there are a few in the squad, if I would have to pick a single player that eats, drinks, breathes and shits Sharks rugby it would be Keegan. This man has Sharks blood pumping through every single vein in his body.

    Also not that important, but the fact that Keegan will most likely not be lost to the Sharks after Super Rugby also makes him a very strong candidate for me.

    As far as my personal belief on captains go about being picked first, my loose trio will also have him at 6, Deysel at 7 and Alberts at 8 with Kanko on the bench.

    My vice captain (which might surprise a few of you) will be McLeod. (if you guys still have him in the team… 😉 )

  • Comment 6, posted at 03.01.12 10:46:15 by Morné Reply
  • @Pokkel (Comment 2) : agreed Daniel did not impress as captain during cc imagine in SR where the pressure is worse! I would go with either Bismarck, Alberts or Skeate with Lambie as vice!

  • Comment 7, posted at 03.01.12 10:47:16 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette
  • @Morné (Comment 6) : You made some good points.
    Regarding McLeod though just this thought:
    He`d have to be in the team if we`re gonna select our best possible backline.
    McLeod, Fred, JP, Lambie, Whitehead, Odwa and Viljoen.

  • Comment 8, posted at 03.01.12 10:51:50 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Morné (Comment 6) : Wouldn’t it be a good time to start moulding Lambie into a leadership role by picking him as vice captain for the year?

  • Comment 9, posted at 03.01.12 10:54:37 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Pokkel (Comment 9) :

    Personally I do not think so. Lambie needs to be given one position and establish himself in it first for my money. I think giving him the captaincy so early in his career will slow his progression as a player.

  • Comment 10, posted at 03.01.12 10:57:05 by Morné Reply
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 8) : Fred is leaving in June way before the end of S15 so I still believe Lambie should start at 10.

  • Comment 11, posted at 03.01.12 10:57:37 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Morné (Comment 10) : I believe Lambie should only play 10 for the Sharks….your opinion?

  • Comment 12, posted at 03.01.12 10:58:56 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Morne (comment6):firstly, all the best for 2012!
    Hope the experiment of deysel at 4 is something of the past.

  • Comment 13, posted at 03.01.12 11:02:16 by bergshark Reply

  • With fred leaving in june ,I’d like to see the sharks develop a 9/10 combo (which would mean relegating fred to the bench).

  • Comment 14, posted at 03.01.12 11:04:14 by bergshark Reply

  • @Pokkel (Comment 11) : Oh well we all know what it means if we have Lambie at 10. dispair! 😥

  • Comment 15, posted at 03.01.12 11:06:27 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Pokkel (Comment 12) :

    I am in two minds personally.

    I think Lambie will become an exceptional flyhalf if that is where is selected from now on.

    On the other hand, I believe we are breeding somewhat mediocre fullbacks in SA who may have good pace or huge boots (sometimes both), but zero vision or game-reading ability.

    Having a fullback that has the ability to read plays on defense and attack and almost always find himself in the right position you have a massive advantage as a team. I think the role of the fullback in modern rugby is hugely underestimated in fact.

    Lambie is such a player – he has a phenomenal natural feel for the game and the ability to think 2 or 3 moves ahead which very few players have the ability to do (and is almost impossible to coach).

    So from a neutral perspective and not being a Sharks supporter – in a land where we have a handful of great prospects currently at flyhalf and a bunch of donkeys applying their trade at fullback, I am almost inclined to hand the lad the number 15 jersey for the Sharks and Boks.

  • Comment 16, posted at 03.01.12 11:06:55 by Morné Reply
  • @Morné (Comment 16) : Agree 100%. But the reality is we already have Viljoen and Ludik to cover 15 but nobody in mid-field.

  • Comment 17, posted at 03.01.12 11:10:38 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Morné (Comment 16) :

    From a neutral perspective I would agree but from a Sharks long term perspective who else can fill the no 10 spot for the Sharks when Freddie leaves? JLP?

  • Comment 18, posted at 03.01.12 11:13:16 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Original Pierre (Comment 17) :

    A conundrum indeed – but I will rather pick a player where he has the ability to change a game in an instant than one where he is just filling a temporary hole. That is what the Sharks got wrong with Frans Steyn in my view (remember Dick Muir’s famous line: “I’d rather play Frans on the wing than not at all” or something to that effect?)

  • Comment 19, posted at 03.01.12 11:15:40 by Morné Reply
  • @Pokkel (Comment 18) :

    Quite simple, buy Goosen! 🙂

  • Comment 20, posted at 03.01.12 11:17:32 by Morné Reply
  • Interesting article Morne.

    I certainly felt Keegan failed his first season as cappie, but in the cold light of today, I have to admit that he was on a hiding to nothing; the ghosts of Oupa and Barney just behind him, a much-weakened squad, some disconsolate Boks, and a coach who hadd no idea what he wanted to achieve.

    So I am willing to see Keegan given the reins again – but I despair for the Sharks as long as the direction from the coaches is so poor.

  • Comment 21, posted at 03.01.12 11:20:38 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 21) : Spot on BF!
    Here we are speculating about players, positions and captains but we already forget the core problem with the Sharks……uninspired, one-dimensional coaching!

  • Comment 22, posted at 03.01.12 11:29:39 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • Not so sure about Keegan as captain, but probably needs another shot at it, would be unfair to drop him of the captaincy at this stage.

    Agree with a few here, I would give the vice captaincy to Lambie. He is a born leader. Probably the most natural leader in the Sharks, young or not, but seniors might not like him being captain right now. Will no doubt be the Sharks captain in two years from now. He reminds me of a young John Smit. Sensible guy that can take the pressure, always seems in control. Speaks well too. Also would start every game for the Sharks.

  • Comment 23, posted at 03.01.12 11:30:23 by Puma Reply

  • @Morné (Comment 16) :

    did Rob have a talk with you? because your article is far too short for you :mrgreen:
    thoughts on Bismarck?

  • Comment 24, posted at 03.01.12 12:11:23 by rekinek Reply
    Competition WinnerCompetition Winner Author
  • @rekinek (Comment 24) :

    A new year’s thing if you will 😉

    Bismarck should be left to establish himself as the best hooker in the world.

  • Comment 25, posted at 03.01.12 12:12:30 by Morné Reply
  • I like this article particularly coz it emphasizes that captaincy isn’t just about 80min on the field, it’s about being a 24/7 leader. That said, I hate the implication that leadership is just a methodical checklist process when often the best leaders are those with natural ability. Keegan doesn’t strike me as a guy with much natural leadership quality on or off the field.

    I have a feeling that if the Sharks are successful in 2012, the role of the captain as the chief will be insignificant in relation to the role the captain plays as a player who leads by example/performances.

    If the campaign goes south, I honestly believe we’ll see a change in leadership before the end of the tournament. If the going gets too tough, Keegan will crumble under the pressure coz he’s not a natural.

    So I don’t have much faith in his ability as an all-out leader but I have a lot more faith in his ability to perform well and in that manner set a good example for the players to follow.

    The Sharks seem to be in a bit of a fix for a captain at the moment. Not every player aspires to become the captain, so I’m really happy that Keegan has stepped up to plate, accepted the huge responsibility and I wish him well. I really do.

    Like all true Sharks fans, I’d like nothing better than to see the team, the players and the coaching staff succeed and Union thriving as a result of this success on the field.

  • Comment 26, posted at 03.01.12 12:31:04 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • I’d like to see keegan put in 35 plus tackles a game(lead the tackle stats of the team), attack the first/second receivers in the opp team in-front of the gain line-go in low and hard,put the player on the ground.

  • Comment 27, posted at 03.01.12 13:11:18 by bergshark Reply

  • But uncertain still over his credentials as a captain..

  • Comment 28, posted at 03.01.12 13:13:28 by bergshark Reply

  • @bergshark (Comment 27) : 35 tackles a game is almost impossible, above 20 is awesome.

  • Comment 29, posted at 03.01.12 14:51:59 by Talent Reply
  • @Talent:Check thierry dusatior’s stats vs all blacks in 2007 wc qf and 2011 wc final.. Saying impossible is limiting..
    He won’t be able to do it game in and game out,but that is why we have a squad..player that replaces him must do the same.

  • Comment 30, posted at 03.01.12 15:17:43 by bergshark Reply

  • Want a player that leads the defence,sets the tone.fires everyone else up with his commitment in making the tackles.

  • Comment 31, posted at 03.01.12 15:21:13 by bergshark Reply

  • And a tackler ahead of our 10/12.

  • Comment 32, posted at 03.01.12 15:24:25 by bergshark Reply

  • SA 493/4

  • Comment 33, posted at 04.01.12 13:49:08 by bergshark Reply

  • Rudolph on 24 not out

  • Comment 34, posted at 04.01.12 13:49:40 by bergshark Reply

  • Run rate 3.8

  • Comment 35, posted at 04.01.12 13:50:08 by bergshark Reply

  • @Original Pierre (Comment 17) : Lambie’s future is at 10. The vision you refer to is exactly what we need from our flyhalf. Viljoen fits the profile of a modern day fullback 100%. As for captain, I think we need a hard guy, some who is very competitive and will give the team no choice but to follow his lead. Someone that will help us move away from medicore displays…look no further than Bismarck.

  • Comment 36, posted at 05.01.12 06:14:24 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • Apologies for the 3 cricket comments on this thread 😐

  • Comment 37, posted at 05.01.12 10:11:51 by bergshark Reply


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