Richard Ferguson

Consistency vs Rotation

Written by Richard Ferguson (Richard Ferguson)

Posted in :Bulls, Original Content, Sharks, Stormers, Super Rugby on 15 May 2012 at 13:34
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

Last week Sharks coach John Plumtree announced an unchanged side for the first time this year, and the reaction to this was positive, in that players were rewarded for good form and combinations were given another week to grow an understanding. All in all, this was seen as a positive, but for how long will we be happy?

The point of player rotation was discussed on one of the threads, and the thought got me thinking of the balance between consistent selections and player rotation, and where teams have gotten this right or wrong so far this year.

The Bulls are the only South African team to have won the Super Rugby trophy, and are currently overall log leaders in this competition, so we look to them to see their approach. Earlier in the season, they selected an almost unchanged team week after week, and this was fantastic in terms of picking up momentum and playing winning rugby.

But, and this is a big but, look at where they are now in terms of injuries. In the last few weeks, they have picked up injuries to key players, losing three loose forwards in a matter of three weeks. They are in a fortunate position, unlike the Stormers, to be able to call upon loose forward depth with experience, without taking a step back in terms of quality players. Any other team would have been as fortunate in having depth in this position, or as Wes so kindly pointed out, what would happen if Morne Steyn broke down?

If we compare this to either the Stormers or the Sharks, how would they intend on resting Peter Grant or Pat Lambie, without having either player forced out through injury. Neither team has real backup of similar quality that would be able to command a backline they do. We saw major concerns early in the season at the Sharks, with little cover in terms of a loosehead and an inexperienced Dale Chadwick had to play 8 consecutive games to get the Sharks going. Now the boot is on the Stormers foot, with multiple injuries to loose forwards and seeing the need to fly in backup.

Did the Stormers play their loosies into the ground by not rotating players, thus causing this injury plague? I don’t think so, and to be honest, I though coach Allister Coetzee was doing a great job in giving players sufficient time off the park during matches, as is the case with Andries Bekker, who hardly ever plays a full 80 minute game.

In short, player rotation is a fantastic theoretical idea, which would work in the case of having both Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel fit for an entire season (which will never happen if past experience is to go by) and playing them on and off, giving each a maximum of 50 minutes a weekend before subbing them, giving each a total of 80 minutes every second week. This though, is not the case for most Super Rugby teams in most positions, and this is directly related to expanded Super series which thinned out the talent, but that is an entirely new discussion altogether.

Consistent selections though, can give any team the momentum to take them to the top of their conference, or even the top of the overall log, by building the team environment around a solid base of players, as is the case with the Brumbies. This though, is a tactic that can only be achieved with careful management and having the relationship with the players where they will be open about their fitness and ability to take the field.

We have seen from the Sharks’ play-the-same-team-week-in-and-week-out approach that it does not work when the selections in the first place are not right, and too much reliance is placed on certain individuals in the team. Where the balance between consistency and rotation is though, only the championship teams will know.


  • Nice article Rich, something you and I discussed when I said we should have used Burden. I guess there are arguments for and against rotation.

    The coach has to find the balance between building momentum, blooding new talent and resting key-players, while ensuring that everybody is match fit in case of injuries. In respect to this years campaign I think Plum has done a good job with regard to the points I’ve mentioned, especially as our bench is being used better.

  • Comment 1, posted at 15.05.12 14:04:45 by StevieS Reply
  • It’s all made so much easier with a winning team. When you are leading by 20 after 50 mins its so much easier to take off key players.

    Its a lose lose situation for coaches. If he rests key players and we lose then he is the villain or if we don’t rest key players and they somehow get injured its also the coach’s fault.

  • Comment 2, posted at 15.05.12 14:19:29 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • I wouldn’t want to make that call. I just don’t see the point of giving a player 3 minutes on the field every 3rd game. Then why bother?

    Easier said than done unfortunately!

  • Comment 3, posted at 15.05.12 14:22:45 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @Pokkel (Comment 3) : salary..? 😆

  • Comment 4, posted at 15.05.12 14:39:08 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • Great article Rich! Raises some really interesting points and has me even more convinced that I would never want to coach a SR side.

    @Ice (Comment 4) : Got it in one try!

  • Comment 5, posted at 15.05.12 15:04:09 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • It is really a catch-22 situation. If you scrape through in each match, it is difficult to take off the stalwarts that are helping you scraping through. However at the same time you will play those stalwarts into the ground.

    For example if you replace Bismarck with Burden, you loose a lot at the breakdown and a bit at scrum. So if you are already being hammered at the breakdown, you need another substitute to take over Bismarck’s role.

  • Comment 6, posted at 15.05.12 15:25:41 by Bokhoring Reply
  • I think the issue of team selection is as much a science as an art, and is one that will differentiate the great coaches from the also-rans. It can’t be easy, but then again, that’s what they get paid the long dollars for!

  • Comment 7, posted at 15.05.12 15:39:04 by Culling Song Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
    Culling Song
  • @Culling Song (Comment 7) : throw a good dollop of luck in too

  • Comment 8, posted at 15.05.12 15:44:41 by Bokhoring Reply
  • Doesn’t it boil down to what the coaches are doing underneath u with the vodacom cup sides and currie cup sides…if guys are playing to to potential and getting game time it helps to bring them in when injuries or player rotations occurs..

  • Comment 9, posted at 15.05.12 16:21:32 by shaniboi Reply

  • @Bokhoring (Comment 8) : I don’t know, if that were the case the Crusaders and Bulls sure are lucky! 😉

  • Comment 10, posted at 15.05.12 17:01:36 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @vanmartin (Comment 10) : I mean an art plus a science plus a bit of luck added in.

  • Comment 11, posted at 15.05.12 17:23:17 by Bokhoring Reply

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