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International dirty word, a ‘SupeRugby’ must


Written by Gwyn Pratley (Hertford Highlander)

Posted in :All Blacks, Original Content, Other SA Teams, RWC 2011, Sharks, Super Rugby, Wallabies on 10 May 2011 at 02:52
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

They refuse to use it on the international stage, but if you refuse to use it at ‘SupeRugby’ level you may just find yourself in big trouble. So I am just going to come straight out and say it – ‘Player Rotation’.

As the injury toll mounts to alarming proportions among the New Zealand franchises, one has to ask oneself – who are our third string players in our squads? – And if they have not had game time so far this season, then why not?

Not since before the 2007 RWC was ‘Player Rotation’ in vogue. Following the All Blacks disintegration at the hands of France the words ‘Player Rotation’ became a dirty word here in New Zealand. Mentioning the words, let alone being seen to support the policy led to your widespread derision in rugby circles.

However Super Rugby is not international rugby, with the Super Rugby competition by nature being a completely different beast. After an absolutely absorbing Round 12 – Injuries have hit the headlines ‘Down Under’, no longer can it be ignored, the list of front line players out of action is concerning.

While international coaches now have no place for ‘Player Rotation’ in their operational planning – clearly Super coaches do, or should I say if they don’t, they should have – and if they haven’t then they are in big trouble.

Last Monday I wrote an article titled ‘Div, Deans, and Ted should look to McKenzie’. It was an article that sang the praises of Reds Head Coach Ewen McKenzie. It focussed on his selection policy this season. So later in the week I was interested to read on Planet Rugby, Ewen McKenzies latest column titled ‘A new spin on rotation’. It was a great read and gave a real insight into how McKenzie from day one has focussed on his third string players as much as his first choice selections. McKenzie says ‘To not develop your B, C and Ds would leave your campaign at the mercy of luck’. One of the things that he has done this year has been to develop his entire squad by dare I say it – ‘Player Rotation’. Yes the dirty word of international rugby is a Super Rugby must. McKenzie’s article concluded with the statement ‘You can tell players a thousand times where they sit in your rugby program. But the strength comes from trusting them to participate. This is something the extremely successful Crusaders do very well.’

McKenzie’s words were ringing in my ears as I watched the ‘Third Stringers’ star in Round 12 this past weekend. Does Super Rugby get any better for a player than winning away against the Stormers in front of a packed ‘Newlands’? The Stormers v Crusaders clash was a magnificent advertisement for all that is good about our premier southern hemisphere competition. Firstly the visiting Crusaders were given a rousing reception by their hosts, similar to when the All Blacks play in Capetown. There has always been a strong All Black support base in the city – that reception was sure to have lifted the homeless Crusaders. So much so that there must be some interest in the Crusaders next year maybe playing a home fixture in Capetown (if AMI Stadium is still out of action). Imagine the Crusaders v Sharks at Newlands. Would the Cape faithful turn out? Would they get in behind and support the Crusaders against another South African side? – Food for thought.

The Stormers v Crusaders match was Round 12’s flagship match, and it didn’t disappoint. For me though it was the performances of some of the lesser known faces that looked so at home on the Super stage that had me fixated – as I had McKenzie’s words ringing in my ears. The player of the round for me was Tom Marshall, even though he received a ‘Yellow Card’ in the dying moments of the match. Marshall’s performance epitomized everything that was good about the Crusaders effort. Marshall’s performance was all the more remarkable for the fact that he didn’t appear until just before halftime as a replacement for Adam Whitelock who had in turn replaced Izzy Dagg in the opening stanza of the match. Marshall had an absolute blinder. He along with Willy Heinz, Luke Ramano and Jonathon Poff – who all could be considered the ‘third cab off the rank’ when it comes to team selection, all looked at ease amid one of rugby’s great playing cauldrons.

There were other third stringers to star during the round with Lima Sopoaga (Highlanders), John Ulugia (Waratahs), and Dom Shipperley (Reds) all catching the eye for all the right reasons.

A heavy injury toll is now with us and the New Zealand sides look to be suffering as much as any.

The current 2010 All Black casualty ward looks like this:

Anthony Boric – OUT, Hamstring
Daniel Braid – OUT, Neck
Daniel Carter – OUT, Hamstring
Andy Ellis – OUT, Broken Thumb
Ben Franks – OUT, Lower Back
Corey Jane – OUT, Hamstring
Jerome Kaino – OUT, Neck & Hamstring
Richie McCaw – OUT, Foot & Concussion
Ma’a Nonu – OUT, Fractured eye socket
Conrad Smith – OUT, Broken nose
Brad Thorn – OUT, Calf
Isaia Toeava – OUT, Hip
Sam Whitelock – OUT, Ankle
Tony Woodcock – OUT, Foot
Piri Weepu – OUT, Broken Ankle
Colin Slade – OUT, Broken Jaw
Izzy Dagg – OUT, Quad

It may be a dirty word in international rugby but as Ewen McKenzie’s has shown with his management and planning of the Queensland Reds campaign – ‘Player Rotation’ at this time of the season is looking like a SupeRugby must.



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