The age-old Vodacom Cup conundrum

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Vodacom Cup on 25 Jan 2012 at 08:30
Tagged with : , , ,

As is typical at this time of year, most of our thinking and our discussions seem to be focused on the Super Rugby competition and the Sharks prospects for it. As always, though, there is a little voice in the back of my head that keeps reminding me about the “other squad” that is currently undergoing their own pre-season preparations and making me wonder about how best use the Vodacom Cup to better serve the future needs of the Sharks.

There have always been two very divergent ways of looking at the things, of course and for many years, the Sharks seemed to completely eschew the Vodacom Cup, to the extent that the Wildebeest side that played in it was never afforded the honour of being officially covered by the Sharks brand. The view was that the side was unlikely to ever really be competitive, given that all the top players were in Super Rugby anyway, so they may as well limit that damage. We have moved on from that position, thank goodness, with the rebranded “Sharks XV” now very much a part of the larger fold. That said, the temptation is still very much to view the Vodacom Cup as a sort of “reserves league” for Super Rugby, with those players deemed surplus to requirements each week using the Vodacom Cup fixture to keep match fit.

That approach has never really worked, for three reasons, the first being that Super Rugby squad members, for the most part, really aren’t interested in playing Vodacom Cup and struggle to raise the necessary enthusiasm to really stamp their authority on the game. The second is that it complicates matters for the Vodacom Cup coaches, who can’t do any real planning if they are unable to pick their side until after the Super Rugby team is named (and feel they have players “forced on them” late each week) and the third is that the continual yo-yoing of senior players into and out of the side completely destroys the moral of the rest of the Vodacom Cup squad. All-in-all, not really a great situation.

The other approach, which incidentally is the one I’ve always favoured, is to operate the Vodacom Cup squad as a completely separate entity. Obviously once the Super Rugby training squad is whittled down (which I’m sure the Sharks one will be in due course) there will be a number of fringe players released for Vodacom Cup duty, but barring injury or drastic lack of form, there shouldn’t be too much movement between the two squads on a weekly basis. The bulk of the Sharks XV team for this year would then comprise players who will go on to compete in the under 21 competition later this year and will benefit from the opportunity to grow as team mates and combinations now.

I would further go on to suggest that unless a player is earmarked to play a role in this year’s Currie Cup (either at senior or under 21 level) he really shouldn’t be given a starting spot for the Sharks XV – in other words, there should be a clear purpose behind each selection with the future of Sharks rugby in mind. Whether the Sharks XV goes on to win the competition or not (they have yet to do so and probably aren’t much favoured to reverse that trend in 2012) ends up being of far less importance, with the bigger picture in mind.


  • Hi Rob,

    Do you have a preliminary squad for us?

  • Comment 1, posted at 25.01.12 08:36:27 by dawj Reply
  • Good read, yes Vodacom Cup should be used to develop the future players, not a place for beens and never beens

  • Comment 2, posted at 25.01.12 08:42:28 by Mutley Reply
  • Quick question. How do the aussies and kiwis operate? The aussies cant have enough depth to run a secondary competition concurrently, what do the kiwis do?

  • Comment 3, posted at 25.01.12 08:48:42 by RuckingFun Reply

  • I agree Rob.

    Maybe 3 other uses for the Vodacom Cup:

    1. Trial promising talent from outside the province with the aim of signing them on for the Currie Cup and next year’s Super Rugby (similar to how we trialled Jean Deysel against EP in 2009)

    2. Injured players must first come back through the Vodacom Cup before rejoining the Super Rugby Squad. This will allow them to be reintroduced to contact and to prove, and improve, their match fitness.

    3. We blood not only u21’s, but also those players who will fill in come Currie Cup time for the Boks.

  • Comment 4, posted at 25.01.12 08:49:12 by StevieS Reply
  • @dawj (Comment 1) : it is currently a huge training squad. Most of the u21s and u19s from last year with club guys also in the mix.

    They’ll whittle it down after trials in a few weeks. Throw me some names and I’ll tell you if they’re there 🙂

  • Comment 5, posted at 25.01.12 09:26:03 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • I still think having your next best players being tested on a weekly basis against opponents of a similar strength is beneficial to the Unions. It’s good for developing young players, it keeps a core of players under the watchful eye of the Union, it keeps players sharper than club rugby wud, it’s good for higher level match fit in case of call up to the SR squad.

    I think it’s biggest problem as a brand is that it’s competing with SR in terms of TV time slots with 2nd best players. If games had to be played on Sundays or during the week, the VC’s popularity wud pick up but as long as its just reserves competing, it’s never going to be a huge drawcard.

  • Comment 6, posted at 25.01.12 10:14:53 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @beet (Comment 6) : my brainwave was for a Super Rugby u23 competition to be played as curtain raisers to the main event… what you fink?

  • Comment 7, posted at 25.01.12 10:57:26 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • released for Vodacom Cup injury 😯 😆

  • Comment 8, posted at 25.01.12 11:08:44 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 8) :

    Hehe.. nothing but positive feedback hey? :mrgreen:

  • Comment 9, posted at 25.01.12 11:10:47 by Richard Ferguson Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    Richard Ferguson
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 8) : you lose your edit button? 🙂

    Blame it on my 04h30 writing habit !

  • Comment 10, posted at 25.01.12 11:11:50 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Well I for one will be VERY pissed if, in this loooong season, players who don’t make the Sharks match 22 are played in the SharksXV side unless they have not been played for a few weeks.

    A rotation policy will be of absolutely no use if the rotated player plays in a different competition.

  • Comment 11, posted at 25.01.12 11:13:51 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @robdylan (Comment 10) : Hey that slip may be a prophecy. 😉 Editing from the phone would take 2 days 🙂

  • Comment 12, posted at 25.01.12 11:14:51 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @KSA Shark © (Comment 11) :

    Very good point!

    If the rotation policy is used, players will not be played into the ground, meaning less injuries, meaning less to and fro from the Vodacom Cup team.

    This will give the VC team a bit of consitency and give those players the necessary game time.

  • Comment 13, posted at 25.01.12 11:15:49 by Richard Ferguson Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
    Richard Ferguson
  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : I think an age group compo for SR wud be a wonderful idea. 😆

    But the S/Hem does have the bucks to fund it. 😥

  • Comment 14, posted at 25.01.12 11:17:15 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld

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