Sharks Super Rugby 2014: The midfield

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 22 Jan 2014 at 12:04
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

Few areas have been as problematic for the Sharks in recent years as the midfield. Let’s have a look at the options new coach Jake White is likely to turn to for Super Rugby 2014.

After what seemed like years of plodding along with the same dull, unimaginative centre play under John Plumtree and Grant Bashford, the Sharks finally seemed to turn a corner during last year’s Currie Cup. A few hitherto-untried options from the junior ranks were brought through, while veterans, including an out-of-position Louis Ludik, also came to the party. Brendan Venter’s rotation policy saw a huge variety of different combinations used, which worked well enough in Currie Cup, but for Jake White, the challenge now is to forge a new first-choice partnership, while also ensuring sufficient depth.

The big shock so far has been the axing of Tim Whitehead – a fan favourite since his arrival from the Cape two seasons ago – from the Super Rugby squad. Along with promising youngster Gareth Meikle (who will play a big role for UKZN in the Varsity Shield), Whitehead was released from White’s provisional squad at the start of the year and is, we believe, currently training with the Vodacom Cup team. For a guy who has had a horrible run with injury, but has impressed for the most part when picked, it’s a bitter blow for sure. New coaches come with new ideas, though and until we’ve seen White’s gameplan unfold between the four lines, it’s unfair to say too much about whether he’s made the right call here.

Bok Francois Steyn is the man to whom White will turn as primary option in the number 12 jersey. White has identified synergies between Steyn and first-choice pivot Pat Lambie and wants to see that partnership blossom, in the process assisting both men in their quest to capture those respective jerseys at Test level. Heimar Williams, as the man to make the best fist of his Currie Cup opportunity last year, looks set to play a role here too, perhaps as understudy to Steyn at inside centre.

Paul Jordaan, now over his horrific knee injury, looks set to reclaim the troublesome number 13 shirt. In a position where the Sharks have battled for years, White looks set to persevere with the lightning-fast Freestater, but as always, backup in this position remains a question mark. The possibility that a wing – JP Pietersen, S’bura Sithole or even Odwa Ndungane – could be used here cannot be discounted.

Also in the picture are last year’s under-21 pair, Tyler Fisher and Andre Esterhuizen. Both just 20 years old (and in their second year out of school), they are clearly highly rated by White and have been included in the tour squad to play Saracens. Esterhuizen is perhaps not quite quick enough for a role at outside centre, but will offer White another, very similar option to Steyn at 12, whereas Fisher – who has played all his junior rugby in the 13 shirt – ironically looks set for a trial run at fullback, rather than in the midfield.

Without knowing too much about what’s in store, I certainly wouldn’t bet against all five of these men enjoying a good run at some stage during the upcoming competition.


  • Could Fisher perhaps be picked at 15 in order to ease him into the 13 role due to the position’s defensive demands?

  • Comment 1, posted at 22.01.14 12:15:35 by vanmartin Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • I would love to see a backline with Pat10, Steyn 12, JP 13 and Mvovo 11! ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

  • Comment 2, posted at 22.01.14 12:28:56 by KILLER SHARK Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
  • Different topic….when are the boys travelling for Saturday’s game?

  • Comment 3, posted at 22.01.14 12:37:31 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • Lambie, Steyn, Jordaan. It has so much potential.

  • Comment 4, posted at 22.01.14 12:39:00 by Southern_Shark Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @GreatSharksays (Comment 3) : they fly tonight

  • Comment 5, posted at 22.01.14 12:44:57 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Must say jordaan looked very good at age group levels, not to much to show at snr level yet, but won’t be long

  • Comment 6, posted at 22.01.14 12:50:30 by KingsArmy Reply

  • i am hoping to get to watch the entire game.

  • Comment 7, posted at 22.01.14 12:54:02 by Dunx Reply

  • It seems like ages ago since I last saw Jordaan play for the Sharks…how was his handling? He will need to be quick with good hands, as I believe Steyn’s size will enable him to stay up in the tackle just long enough to pull the second defender and get a good offload away to Jordaan!

  • Comment 8, posted at 22.01.14 13:04:38 by HeinF Reply

  • Dont be surprised if Tim Swiel pops up in that midfield – mayb not in Super rugby but CC. He has the attributes to be a 12 like JW had with the Brumbies (Lealeafano, excuse spelling). Altho i dont think Swiel will be predominately at 15 unless he surpasses Zeilinga as backup 10. Not sure if Fisher or Esterhuizen are up to it yet but can only judge when they play. Jordaan needs to stay injury free – but maybe the injuries are a result of him being a bit too small?

  • Comment 9, posted at 22.01.14 13:04:47 by SheldonK Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 5) : Thanks Rob.

  • Comment 10, posted at 22.01.14 13:12:52 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 9) : birdy tells me Swiel and Esterhuizen will start on Saturday. Let’s see if it’s a good birdy.

  • Comment 11, posted at 22.01.14 13:13:05 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 11) : Hmm is that outside Zeilinga or 10/12? Also just throwing this out there but Rob Du Preez ( no not his ballie) was decent for the baby Boks at 10 but i also think he could be a thinkign 12- we dont have many in SA. How old is he again? and im guessing he is in Vodacom Cup squad?

  • Comment 12, posted at 22.01.14 13:23:04 by SheldonK Reply

  • Flyhalf really is one position that the Sharks seem to have so much talent and options galore. Very sad that Tim Whitehead has been dropped down to the Vodacom side as I really rate him as a player. He’s not your typical SA midfielder, in that he lets the ball do the work, and seems to create space for the outside backs.

  • Comment 13, posted at 22.01.14 13:30:45 by Bump Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 12) : 10/12

  • Comment 14, posted at 22.01.14 13:33:51 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @Bump (Comment 13) : reading between the lines, Jake has identified pace as a glaring problem for the Sharks.

    Tim is wonderful in a lot of ways, but the fact remains that he is atrociously slow for a back. Remember him being hauled in by a lock during the Currie Cup?

  • Comment 15, posted at 22.01.14 13:34:56 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 14) : Ah i see, with 13 being Jordaan? Swiel can play 10 i know that he is good there. Whether he is better than Zeilinga is hard to say. He may be up against Charlie Hodgson which will be a good [email protected]robdylan (Comment 15) : Yeh unfortunately pace is a premium in Super rugby and in fact all rugby these days. And yes tim can catch and pass etc but he has no pace which allows the cover defense to negate any break and shut down space around him.

  • Comment 16, posted at 22.01.14 13:41:58 by SheldonK Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 15) : Rob, agreed but I can remember a currie cup game where Os hauled in James Small. And how many back line players were run down by Albert van den Berg?

    However, I still feel that he has a place as a Super rugby player at 12, where he will not be as exposed, pace wise.

  • Comment 17, posted at 22.01.14 13:56:36 by Bump Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 16) : I’m hoping Zeilinga-Williams get a run in the second half.

  • Comment 18, posted at 22.01.14 13:58:46 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Really surprised about Whitehead. Yes, he’s isn’t quick, but neither were Dick Muir or Brendan Venter, for example.

    In any event, hope this works out.

  • Comment 19, posted at 22.01.14 14:08:18 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @robdylan (Comment 18) : Yeh im a fan of both to be honest. Both offer very good qualities and with experience the silly mistakes will be eradicated. But who at 13? No real stand outs so i guess some youngster has to put up his hand unless JW has earmarked JP Pieterson for that role.

  • Comment 20, posted at 22.01.14 14:14:17 by SheldonK Reply

  • I am not convinced about Jordaan at 13 at all. Don’t get me wrong, he is an exciting attacking player in the Brent Russell mould, but is physically not up to the mark as a centre.

    Robbie Fruean proved this last year when he ran straight over him as if he was not there. It was man vs boy stuff.

    The best options at 13 are blooding one of Esterhuizen or Fisher or moving Williams to 13.

    Whitehead was great two S15’s ago, but has never rediscovered that form after his injury. But he will definitely feature I reckon.

  • Comment 21, posted at 22.01.14 14:24:54 by Saffex Reply

  • @Saffex (Comment 21) : To be fair Fruen dominates most centres physically but his hands are kak. I still think the Sharks 13 spot is up for grabs and anyone can stake a claim, unless Jake White has earmarked JP Pieterson for that spot

  • Comment 22, posted at 22.01.14 14:31:27 by SheldonK Reply

  • Probably the Sharks only problem position after the emergence of Pieter-Steph is 13. Hopefully either Fisher or Esterhuizen can be a solution. Both looked very raw to me last year though.

  • Comment 23, posted at 22.01.14 14:44:37 by war1 Reply
  • @SheldonK (Comment 22) : Happy with Jordaan at 13 and think he’ll do well. Best 13 in SA at the moment is JJ…maybe we need to find out when does his contract jokes. Don’t stress guys. Jordaan will deliver.

  • Comment 24, posted at 22.01.14 14:47:15 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • just heard sarries v sharks game called off,very heavy snow.

  • Comment 25, posted at 22.01.14 14:48:02 by bobby 26 Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
  • sorry could not help myself,so much chatter and excitement about the game i don’t know whether to shit myself or wind my watch

  • Comment 26, posted at 22.01.14 14:52:17 by bobby 26 Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
  • @GreatSharksays (Comment 24) : If he can stay fit and injury free then he is the best solution in my opinion. But he also cant play every game so need other options as well.

  • Comment 27, posted at 22.01.14 14:54:31 by SheldonK Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 15) : Yeah that makes sense. Jordaans speed will compliment Frans strength and size. Hope it clicks and they become a feared combination.

    Speaking of the possibility of S’bura in the no.13 jersey. Last year Jake said “Hereโ€™s an example, if you were a third-choice winger, and we think you can be a first-choice outside centre, then youโ€™ll start for the Sharks at outside centre.” S’bura was the first name that came to my mind back then.

  • Comment 28, posted at 22.01.14 15:06:12 by gregkaos Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @gregkaos (Comment 28) : my only concern wud be S’bura’s passing ability and tackling. I cant remember him doing either of those things particularly well. He is great with ball in hand but its those other attributes pulling him down

  • Comment 29, posted at 22.01.14 15:26:59 by SheldonK Reply

  • @SheldonK (Comment 29) : Yup, I’m not sure what he is capable of in terms of defence and passing, but then I’ve only seen him as a wing where he didn’t have to do much of that. Either way, if his defence & passing is not up to scratch then Jake certainly won’t be putting him there.

  • Comment 30, posted at 22.01.14 15:35:18 by gregkaos Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @SheldonK (Comment 22) : I am sure JP will be the preferred 13. He is big, strong, quick and has proven to be a great finisher. He won’t be pushed of the try line when going for the corner flag tries. Jordaan can play some domestic games but he needs to be matched up per game.

  • Comment 31, posted at 22.01.14 15:38:07 by KILLER SHARK Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
  • @KILLER SHARK (Comment 31) : I also hav a feeling JP will be used there. A big strong runner outside 2 play makers. @gregkaos (Comment 30) : Yeh i agree with your comment about him only being used at wing. I was also trying to think back on his Sevens performance but there too i can only recall him with ball in hand.

  • Comment 32, posted at 22.01.14 15:42:58 by SheldonK Reply

  • @bobby 26 (Comment 25) : In the UK snow melts quickly for no apparent reason. Still a few days to go.

  • Comment 33, posted at 22.01.14 15:43:22 by Caratacus Reply

  • I think JW will do JP a disservice by playing him 13. He is bokke first choice wing. Isn’t he also missing two or three games because of commitments in japan? My money is on jordaan….

  • Comment 34, posted at 22.01.14 15:58:12 by KingsArmy Reply

  • Mvovo played center at school I think, is big and strong. But can he read the defensive lines and how’s his hands? Probably not gonna happen

  • Comment 35, posted at 22.01.14 16:01:16 by KingsArmy Reply

  • I think Stokkies Hanekom is a good 13 prospect in SA – from what I’ve seen from him so far.

  • Comment 36, posted at 22.01.14 16:20:04 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • JPP is one of the best if not best wings in the world what nonsense suggesting he play 13,but 13 remains the key weakness still as TM and PJ are not good enough for 13 ,to slow ,weak defence and the other way to small,if youngssters not ready yet we need to import then

  • Comment 37, posted at 22.01.14 16:27:41 by benji Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @Letgo (Comment 36) : I agree

  • Comment 38, posted at 22.01.14 16:36:14 by SheldonK Reply

  • @benji (Comment 37) : who is TM?

  • Comment 39, posted at 22.01.14 16:37:52 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • I think Odwa could be a good option at 13 or perhaps SP. But believe Jordaan has got what it takes, just need to deliver

  • Comment 40, posted at 22.01.14 16:46:22 by CrazySharkFan Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 39) :
    Tim Mighthead

  • Comment 41, posted at 22.01.14 17:36:23 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 41) : If you ask White, it’s Tim Won’thead

  • Comment 42, posted at 22.01.14 17:38:25 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 42) :
    For the sake of our friendship, we shall never discuss this “witticism” ever again.

    You been hanging around some Bulls fans?

  • Comment 43, posted at 22.01.14 17:46:30 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 43) : what, me throw my pearls before swine? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Comment 44, posted at 22.01.14 17:50:23 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 44) :
    You’re still running SW, ain’t ya? ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

  • Comment 45, posted at 22.01.14 17:53:14 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 45) : more like it’s running away with me

  • Comment 46, posted at 22.01.14 17:59:38 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • Whitehead was a large part of our near success in 2012. I don’t think Jake White fails to recognize his talent, but because of Steyn and Williams, Whitehead would be used at 13, which he really can’t do with his pace.

  • Comment 47, posted at 22.01.14 18:45:30 by David12246 Reply

  • Some interesting suggestions here.

    IMHO JP should play 14 with Mvovo on the other wing. When JP is on form he is a sight to behold on the rugby field.

    If something should happen to Jordaan at 13, I`d seriously consider Odwa, but would he cope with the more difficult defensive challenge?

  • Comment 48, posted at 22.01.14 19:15:12 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre
  • @robdylan (Comment 42) : @Big Fish (Comment 41) : @robdylan (Comment 39) : there we go

  • Comment 49, posted at 22.01.14 21:09:16 by benji Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @SheldonK (Comment 22) : Ja while Fruen might have made an impression physically against most, it was the means with which he dispatched with Jordaan that was concerning.

    He ran straight over him as if he was not there. He just blew him away and that was purely down to Jordaan being a little guy.

    I just dont think centre is for Jordaan, he would be better suited on the wing.

    JP will work at 13, but the best bet is bloodying Fisher or Esterhuizen I reckon.

  • Comment 50, posted at 22.01.14 22:56:05 by Saffex Reply

  • @GreatSharksays (Comment 24) : Agreed JJ is by far our best 13

  • Comment 51, posted at 22.01.14 22:56:54 by Saffex Reply

  • @Original Pierre (Comment 48) : No ways would Odwa make a 13, too old to change for a start and just does not have the mechanics to be a centre.

    The Sharks have more than enough depth at centre……..finding the best two from Frans, Williams, Whitehead, Fisher, Esterhuizen and Jordaan will be the challenge.

    My call would be 12. Frans 13. Fisher…….with Esterhuizen on the bench

  • Comment 52, posted at 22.01.14 23:01:46 by Saffex Reply

  • Rob what is with my non avatar change……it was only a picture of Jim!!!!!!!!

  • Comment 53, posted at 22.01.14 23:13:43 by Saffex Reply

  • Ha ha……good man

  • Comment 54, posted at 22.01.14 23:24:20 by Saffex Reply

  • @Saffex (Comment 50) : I agree with your point to an extent. I do think jordaan got into a horrible position to tackle Fruen that time though – just like Brodie Rettalick on Mone Steyn when he got handed off. However I do agree that JP could do the job at 13 but i prefer JP on the wing as he seems to roam and look for work more and does become quite predictable at 13. So i think 13 is the position where any youngster could throw his name into the hat and make it his own with a good performance. On a side note- i wouldnt mind seeing JP at 15 with Mvovo and Jordaan on the wings.

  • Comment 55, posted at 23.01.14 08:13:34 by SheldonK Reply

  • I was realy impressed with Tyler Fischer last year with the juniors. Would like to see him next to Fransie with Jordaan on the wing until we have JPP back from Japan. Heimar Williams did very little wrong last year with the opportunities he got and Tim Whitehead’s distribution skills was quite amazing 2 years ago. Haven’t seen much of Esterhuizen.

  • Comment 56, posted at 23.01.14 08:21:52 by Bite me Reply

    Bite me
  • I think its to early to push jordaan away from center. So he had a bad game against fruean, it happens. He should start the season as first choice and take it from there.

  • Comment 57, posted at 23.01.14 16:04:19 by KingsArmy Reply

  • @Saffex (Comment 52) : Don t know Fisher or Esterhuizen so I ll reserve judgement lol.
    Whitehead should definately be Frans ‘s understudy though.

  • Comment 58, posted at 24.01.14 13:12:36 by Original Pierre Reply
    Original Pierre

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