The good and bad in the team changes

Written by Maria Delport (Letgo)

Posted in :Original Content, Super Rugby on 24 May 2012 at 11:12

The Sharks have made a few changes to a winning formula, one that has been met with shock and confusion from their supporters. Firstly, Jacques Botes, the man that has been so integral in the improvement of ball retention at ruck time has been dropped to the bench for his 100th game, with Marcell Coetzee shifting into his spot and Willem Alberts getting another start. Then surprisingly another man who has become known for his work at the breakdown, Jean Deysel drops out of the 22 to make way for Botes on the bench, joining another two ball carrying forwards in Ryan Kankowski and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

If Plumtree was going for subtle he completely missed the pot.

In the backline we have Meyer Bosman at inside centre as a forced change and Fred Michalak getting another shot at flyhalf after one of his outstanding games of the season against the Cheetahs, which means a fit again Lambie now starts at the back for the first time this season and Viljoen drops out of the 22 completely, with Mr. Commitment Louis Ludik fit and covering the bench again this week.

We can only hope that our loose forwards learned something from the way Botes has been playing and that the improvement made in the way we played to the ball and protecting possession was more than just a selection change and something the coaches have actively been working on. Botes has clearly been the man in charge of organizing the players to protect the ball, a responsibility which now will have to fall on another player, a task Botes had been doing a damn good job of and hopefully leaving him out will not hurt our ball retention. The fact is we have 5 out of 8 forwards who are all natural ball carrying players, after that we have a prop and 2 locks left who between the three of them would have to carry most of the ball protecting load.

Fred needs to play the same type and standard of game he did last week, twice in a row. If he could do this, against all previous evidence, then I am quite happy to have Lambie at the back, since we know he’ll do a great job there, he is in fact the incumbent Bok fullback. The problem is Fred usually has a few brain farts and that could cost us this week.

If the above two concerns have been given attention by Plumtree and if these groups of players understand the above mentioned issues were why they were omitted from the team in the first place,  if they can improve and have these areas of the game functioning to an acceptable standard, then a few positives could be taken from Plumtree’s selections changes.

The Stormers defence is strong, we all know that, but it seems, by all we’ve seen and heard this week, that all that effort that has gone into their defending has had an impact on their bodies. The idea here must be to go for their weak spot, as a boxer would do in a fight and see if this could break them down enough to open up some gaps in their impenetrable defence.

Fred tends to play deeper in the flyhalf channel, giving his backs a bit more space to move in. He also uses his boot by chipping and making grubbers much more than Lambie does, which usually is seen as a bad thing, but against the flat defence of the Stormers could be a good thing. Plumtree’s hand was also forced with the injury to Tim Whitehead and may have felt that Fred combines better with Bosman at inside centre. Bosman is a strong straight runner and should get us over the advantage line and with Fred standing deeper, will also have more room to make a few of his flat passes to the wings and even to Lambie who we will probably see joining the line, running onto Bosman’s passes.

Like I said, Lambie at fullback is a better choice than anyone else in this position, how many of us have said if only we can have one more Lambie. He will still be on the field and could still be used as a first receiver and will be joining the line from fullback, where we have seen him create space for his wings before, something that game breakers of  Lwazi and JP’s quality will certainly enjoy.

After the initial shock, I just thought it would be good to point out some of the positives  that so many changes could have, even to the very team that has given us the first bit of hope we longed for all season long. I’m still not sure that making so many changes before a big game was the best move. Especially since the team that has now been tampered with was the very team that produced the  first 3 game winning streak of the whole season and after so much emphasis has been put on continuity (not by us, by the team), this move is still somewhat baffling.

It’s definitely bold, but not necessarily smart.


  • Both Fred and Bosman need to hold back on those long loopy skip passes, as the Stormers have two of the best interceptors in the world..

  • Comment 1, posted at 24.05.12 11:17:15 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 1) : I agree, and Fred needs to stop the chip/grubber kicks when he has 5 players out side him waiting to score…

  • Comment 2, posted at 24.05.12 11:18:48 by Uli Reply
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  • @Uli (Comment 2) :

    The chip or grubber might work with the Stormers rush defence, as Letgo pointed out in the article..

    But if there is an overlap, keep the bloody ball in hand!

  • Comment 3, posted at 24.05.12 11:23:55 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 1) : I think throw a couple in the beginning to get the interest in those “great” interceptors. Then when they rush out of line to try and intercept you keep the passes shorter and open the gaps.

  • Comment 4, posted at 24.05.12 11:24:53 by Butchie34 Reply
  • @Richard Ferguson (Comment 3) : Yip Letgo has some valid points there. But as you said “But if there is an overlap, keep the bloody ball in hand!” 😉

  • Comment 5, posted at 24.05.12 11:26:09 by Uli Reply
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  • My initial reaction was very negative towards the changes and I still believe that too many changes have been made. It could be a stroke of brilliance like last years game against the Bulls.

    If Lambie and Freddie both have great games it probably gives us more of an attacking edge than with Ludik at the back. I read another positive view on the selections on another site and there are definite positives as well, IF and it’s a big IF, Freddie plays as well as last week. It also seems that there is a good chance of rain on Saturday and then Freddie could be of great value….remember the CC game in Cape Town last year where Freddie was magnificent in the wet.

    Let’s trust in Plum, maybe this was a stoke of genius…..but it could just as easily backfire horribly.

  • Comment 6, posted at 24.05.12 11:28:31 by Pokkel Reply
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  • The Stormers have also lost most 2nd halves they’ve played and if the Sharks can be level or ahead by half time then the likes of Botes and Kanko can perhaps open some gaps in the 2nd half.

  • Comment 7, posted at 24.05.12 11:32:25 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 6) : t could be a stroke of brilliance like last years game against the Bulls. EXACTLY what I thought when I saw the team, and why I am not overly concerned..

  • Comment 8, posted at 24.05.12 11:35:18 by Ice Reply
    Competition Winner Ice
  • Great team, believe guys believe…we can do this…we are going to do this..Hope it doesn’t rain.

  • Comment 9, posted at 24.05.12 11:57:32 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • remeber fred @ 10 and pat @ 15 coupled with a good performance by the forwards did it for us against the bulls last year think it could work again

  • Comment 10, posted at 24.05.12 12:24:35 by BR Reply
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  • @BR (Comment 10) : But then the game after that it backfired because … FRED CAN’T MANAGE TWO GREAT PERFORMANCES IN A ROW!

    I’m sorry, I didn’t mean the shout, but it is a glaring problem with this team.

  • Comment 11, posted at 24.05.12 12:28:52 by Letgo Reply
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  • Why leave Botes out and this for his 100th game!!!!! Plum did that with his 100th CC Game also and brought him on in the 75th minute. I do not understand. Sometimes you need to honour the players for their contribution and what better way than let him start, run out first and get the deserved cheer from the fans. I am baffled and just on this point made me think that Plum was not thinking clearly and now I do not trust his reasoning behind the other changes. I would love Lambie as flyhalve and Ludik at the back. We cannot trust an up and down player as Fred against the Stormers.

  • Comment 12, posted at 24.05.12 12:29:39 by Stef Reply

  • @Letgo (Comment 11) : Pretty much my worry too. And if Fred starts disintegrating, Bosman will follow

  • Comment 13, posted at 24.05.12 12:30:49 by Bokhoring Reply
  • @Pokkel (Comment 7) : We cannot wait for the second halve and then expect Botes to come and win this. The Stormers played one halve up to now, perhaps they will only play the 2nd halve this time and if we do not have a proper lead by that time, can loose the whole thing.

  • Comment 14, posted at 24.05.12 12:35:01 by Stef Reply

  • @Letgo (Comment 11) : I agree. I was not nervous because the guys gelled together nicely, but now???

  • Comment 15, posted at 24.05.12 12:36:25 by Stef Reply

  • @Stef (Comment 12) : Yip, if he has been playing badly then yes sure leave him out, you always have to look at what’s best for the team, but since Botes’ return we have won 3 out of 4?

    So why bench him now?

    It really doesn’t make sense.

    Hopefully he will be able to make his contribution of the bench and I think what pokkel was saying, is that by evidence from what we’ve seen this whole season the second half haven’t been the Stormers’ friend, so if we can tire them out in the first, run them of their feet, then maybe in the second a few of the bench guys can make an impact…Having said that Botes is not really specifically an impact player.

  • Comment 16, posted at 24.05.12 12:47:21 by Letgo Reply
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  • Very peeved that Botes is not starting. Plum, wake up a bit please.

  • Comment 17, posted at 24.05.12 13:32:39 by Shred Reply

  • HEHEHEHE This is gonna be interesting.

    Plum obviously went all in with this bet.

    If this comes off we`ll have to congratulate the man and shut up.
    If it doesn`t, we`ll have his resignation by Sunday morning.

  • Comment 18, posted at 24.05.12 13:33:09 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @Original Pierre (Comment 18) :

    That pretty much sums it up!

  • Comment 19, posted at 24.05.12 13:41:22 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 11) : Fred has been good since he came on against the Force, that constitutes 2 games in a row, he is on a streak at the moment. All will be good. We should also bear in mind that Pat also has poor games from time to time.

  • Comment 20, posted at 24.05.12 13:50:05 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • @Stef (Comment 12) : There is no room for sentimentality in sport.

  • Comment 21, posted at 24.05.12 13:57:26 by lostfish Reply
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  • I think it’s pretty clear from the team selection that Plum is placing a premium on tactical kicking for this game

  • Comment 22, posted at 24.05.12 14:06:08 by Culling Song Reply
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  • @Culling Song (Comment 22) : Which will be important, but Fred can make his one special mistakes when kicking out of hand.

  • Comment 23, posted at 24.05.12 14:09:06 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 20) : We can only hope. Remember in this Force game he still had to prove himself. The Cheetahs game was the first one where Plum actually backed him, some players just don’t play that good when a coach shows confidence in them, because it then turns the confidence they already have in themselves into cockiness.

  • Comment 24, posted at 24.05.12 14:10:51 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Salmonoid (Comment 20) : I have never seen Pat do anything wrong! 😉

  • Comment 25, posted at 24.05.12 14:16:15 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Letgo… Thanx for the article. NEeded some “positiveness” for this one.. Was feeling a bit Dumbtree after the team announcement.

  • Comment 26, posted at 24.05.12 14:17:09 by SharksRTB Reply

  • @Letgo (Comment 25) : Your not alone with that view, especially around here. 😉

  • Comment 27, posted at 24.05.12 14:28:41 by Salmonoid Reply
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  • Heyneke Meyer probably forced Plum to do this.
    It could backfire on Heyneke in a big way if the Stormers secure a home semi final because of his demands though.

  • Comment 28, posted at 24.05.12 14:47:46 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @SharksRTB (Comment 26) : No problem, I needed it myself.

  • Comment 29, posted at 24.05.12 15:46:57 by Letgo Reply
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  • I disagree. I felt that Fred took the ball much flatter than Pat did in last two games. Alberts is there to add to the physicality. I’m also not too stressed about Bosman. He’ll get the ball out wide and he’s the best back we have at stealing breakdown ball. With Fred and Lambie, we have some flair and unpredictability, and another scrum half to clear the ball when Charl is caught up elsewhere.

  • Comment 30, posted at 24.05.12 16:44:15 by Gaff Reply

  • Plumtree must be the only coach who would drop deysel. I really hope the rumours are true that he is going to coach elsewhere.

  • Comment 31, posted at 24.05.12 17:34:15 by cody007 Reply

  • Not a bad team … It brings me back to the teams we fielded in 2010 against the stormers where we played brutal rugby and bullied them shutting them down at the breakdown and giving them such bad possesion that nothing they tried really worked. Back then it was Dysel playing at 7

    By playing Lambie at 15 the sharks are ensuring that they have a playmaker at most rucks while ensuring that they have the kicking firepower to combat the Provinces principal gameplan.

    Given the must win situation I like the stratergy and I think the team chosen can work.

  • Comment 32, posted at 24.05.12 17:58:45 by byron Reply

  • Has no one cottoned onto the fact that there is a Springbok selection coming up? And Pat needs some game time at 15. Which means 1D Morne is going to be doing his thing at 10. As per usual. Zzzzzz.

  • Comment 33, posted at 24.05.12 18:26:39 by Shaz Reply
  • @Letgo (Comment 29) : So. When Fred has a brain fart and we’re 15-down at halftime, what’s the plan? 😀

  • Comment 34, posted at 24.05.12 18:28:25 by Shaz Reply
  • I am going to reserve all further comment until Saturday evening. 😎

  • Comment 35, posted at 24.05.12 18:29:39 by Shaz Reply
  • “Fred tends to play deeper in the flyhalf channel, giving his backs a bit more space to move in.”

    Letgo, standing deep at flyhalf actually cuts down the space and time to act for the backs as it means that the ball takes longer to get to 10 and from there onward.

    Pat’s strength is that he often takes it flat and get the backs moving earlier. Fred had a good game last week cos he adopted that style at times. There was one occasion in particular where doing this allowed Jordaan to beat Ebersohn with a drift and Jacobs with a hand-off.

    Standing deep may play to the Sharks advantage here cos we may be aiming to play the territory game anyway, which means the flyhalf will kick from deep.

    Knowing that Aplon is at the back, Pat is probably expected to field the bombs, and either kick us into a better position, or create space off loose ball.

  • Comment 36, posted at 24.05.12 18:44:38 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Shaz (Comment 34) : SuperPat to the rescue 🙄

  • Comment 37, posted at 24.05.12 18:51:41 by lostfish Reply
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  • @Letgo (Comment 16) :
    1. Botes is and was never an impact player – not in his buildup
    2. Botes is the main reason we have controlled possession well in recent weeks – that is his strength and value to the team
    3. Michalak has blown hot and cold throughout his career – World Cup 2003, last year vs Bulls and then vs Crusaders.
    4. Ludik has and always will be solid and committed..not shabby on attack either, despite Lambie being the best at 10 and 15 for the Sharks

    Simply put with Botes on the park we would dominate posssession and tire the Stormers. NOW IMAGINE BRINGING ON ALBERTS AND KANKO against a tired defense – AWESOME!!!
    With Lambie at 10 and Ludik at 15 we would have to solid, committed players who don’t have “brain farts” which is essential in tight games. Both players are good on attack as well..

    we can still win this game with this team, but I am so disappointed with Plum (once again) AND THIS STARTING TEAM WILL NOT WIN THE COMP – MARK MY WORDS!!

  • Comment 38, posted at 25.05.12 04:09:00 by pienaar111 Reply

  • @pienaar111 (Comment 38) : I agree with you. This move looks really desperate from Plum, it’s almost like Plum is saying: “How the hell are we going to beat this team”. Instead of just trusting the best 15 we’ve had all season long.

    But if these guys all fire we could still do it.

    I am predicting a lot of Sharks players hanging on to the ball like they’re dangling of the face of a cliff, then come big Willem or Bismarck flying in to save the day, but that only pushes the whole ruck including the Stormers player over the ball and the dangling Sharks player across the field. The penalty will still be given and the player flying in may even be warned for dangerous play.

    I think Plum may have assessed that the Stormers don’t contest that fiercely at ruck time, but rather back themselves by not committing numbers to the breakdown, to turn over ball with their aggressive attacking, in the contact area or by forcing errors. The Stormers would have to rethink their game, because it’s obvious they wouldn’t be able to bully this sharks team on defence, but any half decent coach would know what this sharks teams’ weakness is.

  • Comment 39, posted at 25.05.12 08:08:12 by Letgo Reply
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  • @Big Fish (Comment 36) : You’re right, a flyhalf using the space in front of him in effect creates more space for his backs to move in, because it immediately has the defensive back-line moving back, instead of into your space.

    And when you have a flyhalf standing deep you certainly have more open field in front of you as do your backs who are now standing even deeper and I think you can create more time and room on the ball for your players by adapting a deeper attack, but getting over the advantage line then becomes increasingly difficult as the defence would move up on you as fast as they can. This is why even though the back line-may have more literal seconds and meters (because I don’t think your theory of less time and less space with a flyhalf standing deep is just right on face value), the meters you do have is negative meters, you may run 4 or 5 meters more, but make far less field than the flat standing flyhalf running 1 or 2.

    So getting over the advantage line with a flyhalf that stands deep and flat footed is much harder than when you have a flyhalf who attacks the line and puts the defence on the back foot and creates chances for their backs to get over the advantage line.

    But with the way the Stormers are defending this type of game may be particularly hard.

    Adapting a game like the more expansive Aussie and NZ teams do where you play far behind the advantage line, even going behind your centres and bringing in your back three and see if they can open something up when they have more room to move in, may be you best bet in opening up one of the best defences in the competition. (I can’t be sure of this, but I think this is how the Crusaders did it so easily against the stormers. Now we’re not the Crusaders, but we can look at their game).

    The Stormers defence are very good in close, but Bis, Beast, Marcell, Willem and even Bosman should be able to punch up a few meters, draw the defence in and then we go wide getting Bosman to make a nice long pass to Lambie or Fred to wrap around and then get the ball to Lambie or the wings. That’s how I would have my team playing against the Stormers.

    Once you’ve pushed them back a bit in defence with your big strong forwards, take the ball wide the back three to find a gap.

  • Comment 40, posted at 25.05.12 08:39:33 by Letgo Reply
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