Sharks changes – all good

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 26 Feb 2015 at 10:58
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , ,

There’s not too much to talk about from a team selection point of view this week, with Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold making just two rotational changes to his starting team for Saturday’s big clash against the Bulls at Loftus.

Rotation of players is going to be a key theme in this year’s competition and not just because it’s a World Cup year, with SARU insisting on better management of Bok players. We all saw how Jake White’s insistence on continuity last year resulted in a team full of burned out players come finals time and with the Sharks having the luxury of depth, to me it’s a no-brainer that they should rotate regularly throughout the season. Brendan Venter’s long held mantra is that while a strong team wins you matches, a strong squad wins you trophies and Gold appears to be of one mind with the enigmatic Doctor when it comes to this philosophy.

I think we’ve got to very quickly move away from the somewhat negative language of players being “dropped” in this model – both Tera Mtembu and Heimar Williams, who move out of the squad this week, will know that their exclusion is part of a pre-planned strategy and not due to anything lacking in their performance to date.

Horses for courses is another important factor here and with the game shaping up as a rather physical affair, the presence of a burly guy like Andre Esterhuizen in mid field makes a lot of sense. With the Sharks expected to dominate up front, having a strong gain-line crosser in Esterhuizen should keep momentum going and provide a good target for the pack. Esterhuizen makes his first start in Super Rugby after a single appearance off the bench last year and we perhaps shouldn’t underestimate quite how big a challenge lies ahead for the young man, with two Bok midfielders expected to line up in opposition.

Ryan Kankowski, who isn’t quite the free-running “almost back” of his youth these days, brings some intriguing things to the contest, not least of which is his ability to organise the line-out. Working in tandem with Pieter-Steph du Toit (and of course the legend Marco Wentzel later on), Kanko offers the Sharks more than enough fire power to counter Victor Matfield and crew at this key phase and turn the line-out – once the Bulls’ most potent weapon – into an area of advantage for themselves. Kankowski will also want to show his improved ability to mix it up physically, but with Marcell Coetzee and Renaldo Bothma already doing such a fine job in this area, perhaps the big number 8 will be able to play a freer role as he used to with devastating impact some years ago.

On the bench, it’s good to see Lourens Adriaanse come in. He and Matt Stevens, between them, are going to have to hold up the tighthead side in a few weeks’ time, with Jannie du Plessis due to be rotated out in line with the SARU player management agreement. Stevens has had the opportunity to pick up some match fitness during the first two weeks and Adriaanse must now do the same over the coming fortnight, before one of them is chosen to start in du Plessis’ place, possibly against the Cheetahs in round 5.

Jack Wilson is an unknown to virtually everybody at this stage and will hope to come off the bench to make his Super Rugby debut; I’m certainly very keen to get a closer look at this player, whom I will claim as an “extended family member” since he roomed with my wife’s cousin at university in New Zealand. Tenuous I know, but we do what we must!


  • “Brendan Venter’s long held mantra is that while a strong team wins you matches, a strong squad wins you trophies.”

    Love this statement!

  • Comment 1, posted at 26.02.15 11:39:21 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • “perhaps the big number 8 will be able to play a freer role as he used to with devastating impact some years ago.”

    I have a very good feeling about that. This will be the year where we see the old Kankowski again. πŸ˜€

  • Comment 2, posted at 26.02.15 11:42:20 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Cool connection to an almost, very soon to be, Sharks player.

  • Comment 3, posted at 26.02.15 11:43:58 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ben (Comment 2) : We have players like Giant, PSdT, Coetzee, Bothma and even Deysel on the bench. Kankowski really doesn’t need to try to be a very physical player this year, which hopefully gives him licence to be his old destructive running self again. Just wondering how much pace he has lost since then.

  • Comment 4, posted at 26.02.15 11:46:01 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Great point Rob about not seeing changes as players being dropped, which we assume too quickly.

    Am keen to see how these two, as well as the two newbies on the bench, gel with the team and use their opportunity.

    Few enough changes to keep the continuity I believe.

  • Comment 5, posted at 26.02.15 11:50:30 by stevovo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • So just to correct something I said above…. Esterhuizen already has 2 caps as replacement, not 1. I can’t figure out how to reword the article to make that clearer, so I won’t bother.

  • Comment 6, posted at 26.02.15 11:54:15 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @stevovo (Comment 5) : Very true. Few enough changes to keep the continuity. Rotation does not mean wholesale changes.

  • Comment 7, posted at 26.02.15 11:54:58 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Seems like a rationalized and well communicated strategy. One must also remember there is a people management element to the business of rugby and it seem the team is going out of their way to ensure fairness and consideration for peoples emotional well being. Jake for all his other good points was a little rough when it came to soft issues and in the end you can lose or demotivate players this way.

  • Comment 8, posted at 26.02.15 11:56:51 by coolfusion Reply

  • In addition to Brendan’s statement, a Happy squad gives you years of good service not just one season. John has long said he wants the players to feel safe and cared for in the sharks “family”. Good to see at least one union doing this.

  • Comment 9, posted at 26.02.15 11:59:29 by coolfusion Reply

  • @Ben (Comment 4) : At his age I doubt he has lost pace, maybe just the willingness to use it.

  • Comment 10, posted at 26.02.15 12:01:19 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 10) : Maybe not because of age. Maybe he’s not in the shape that he was back then, I don’t mean he’s fat. Maybe he put on a little more bulk that could possibly have slowed him down.

  • Comment 11, posted at 26.02.15 12:04:42 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Looking forward to the game, very excited to see what Andre can bring to the table, he’s been involved with the team for a while now and I’m glad he wasn’t really rushed into Super Rugby. Would like to see him try one or two off loads with Kango running the offload lines. Everyone expects the big guy to crash ball, let’s hope him and Kango can combine well.

  • Comment 12, posted at 26.02.15 12:33:11 by CrazySharkFan Reply

  • @Ben (Comment 11) : I think he isn’t that hungry edgy player he used to be not because of anything physical he changed his mind somewhere along the road. He used to be up in their face always lurking for an opportunity. Now he seems satisfied to play in position and waiting for whatever comes down the channel, more of a technician than the go-getter he used to be.

  • Comment 13, posted at 26.02.15 13:03:54 by coolfusion Reply

  • I am happy with rotation and changes. Just want us to do less back slapping about forwards displays and more forwards displays….not been impressed with Matt Stevens so far…he is just too slow and not delivering but am happy we have quality on stand by….expect the bulls to work VERY hard this week on their set piece…Big Vic has a lot on the line.

  • Comment 14, posted at 26.02.15 13:53:28 by Sharkfinn Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 13) : I think you might be right, but I think the coaches also had a role to play.

  • Comment 15, posted at 26.02.15 14:43:38 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Sharkfinn (Comment 14) : Sorry if this sounds harsh. I would love very little more than seeing Victor fall on his sword. 😈

  • Comment 16, posted at 26.02.15 14:45:03 by Ben Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Sharkfinn (Comment 14) : very clever nick you’ve got there πŸ™‚ Welcome to the site.

    Where in Finland are you?

  • Comment 17, posted at 26.02.15 15:12:58 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan Lahti…100kms North of Helsinki….too close the bliksemse arctic circle!! Durban boy… ????

  • Comment 18, posted at 26.02.15 15:43:18 by Sharkfinn Reply

  • @Sharkfinn (Comment 18) : can’t say I’ve been there. Spent about a day and a half in Helsinki in 2007, but haven’t been back to Finland since.

    And no, I’m not a Durban boy. Well, in spirit, maybe πŸ™‚

  • Comment 19, posted at 26.02.15 15:48:56 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • going to be interresting to see how Kanko goes!!!!

  • Comment 20, posted at 26.02.15 15:51:13 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
  • @coolfusion (Comment 13) :

    I think it has more to do with the change of style of the Sharks since he started playing in 2006. Remember those days, the days just before we started to combine our enterprising play with good defense and solid platforms. The days of 20 year old Kanko, Ruan, JPP, Barrit, Waylon, Bissie (covering the Bok captain), Keegan – 18 year old Steyn.

    Kanko has simply lost that youthful exuberance. He’s guess when you’ve played a certain number of matches you feel like you are supposed to be the responsible one in the team.

    Not that we have many youngsters who play with the kind of freedom Kanko and Keegan did back then, young players seem much more constricted and structure these days, don’t they. Coaching Style?

    I mean really how many players like Kanko, Keegan and Frans Steyn do you get these days – Willie Le Roux seems to have slipped through the cracks, but I have to say in SA we coach the youth and creativeness right out of them.

    Look at me talking about the old days, can’t believe it’s been 10 years.

  • Comment 21, posted at 26.02.15 16:10:43 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • @Ben (Comment 16) :

    It’s the perfect way of saying it.

    Take the example of Juan, Bakkies – to a lesser extent Jaque Fourie. Even Jean de Villiers has said that he will not go to the World Cup if he cannot make a meaningful contribution to the team.

    Victor must believe he still can. I think he’d be better used as a mentor, really.

    We’ll see, maybe he teaches PSDT a lesson, but I doubt it.

  • Comment 22, posted at 26.02.15 16:14:41 by Letgo Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld Author
  • Last year Jake White shot his mouth off about the bulls and stampkar rugby and then they departed from their normal template and ran it and the Sharks came off second best that game. I like Gary’s style with more subtle mind games. I don’t think the Sharks are taking the opposition lightly and that’s a good thing. They seem to have done that with he Cheetahs and that didn’t turn out well.

  • Comment 23, posted at 27.02.15 16:40:20 by SeanJeff Reply
  • I had a thought πŸ™‚ Maybe SP is going to have a blinder of a game (if Jesse Kriel can do it why can’t he); and I have the feeling that Jack Wilson is going to turn up like a good penny. I read somewhere that the weather is expected to be rainy. The Sharks scored 4 tries against the Lions and they can even better here. There’s nothing like confidence…it won’t take much opposition on the field for the bulls to have dark thoughts and doubts

  • Comment 24, posted at 27.02.15 16:43:44 by SeanJeff Reply

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