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Things Fall Apart; The Centre Cannot Hold…


Written by André Meyer (Culling Song)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 23 Aug 2011 at 07:00
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

Vat of hallucinogens, to be used as inter-dimensional portal, one of? – Check
Electric home appliance, to be used as energy source, one of? – Check
Electric appliance energised? – Check
Intrepid multi-dimensional cosmonaut/reporter, one of? – Check
Adult diapers, for use in the event of cosmonaut/reporter being less than intrepid and ..er… having an “accident”, one bag of? – Check

And so it was that once again I undertook the arduous journey to Utopia to see what Plumtree and co. were getting up to over there, specifically with regards to centres, as it is pretty clear that it is becoming a burning issue over here.

I won’t bore you with of the details of the trip (much like air travel, you have excitement at the start and end, separated by long spells of tedium and discomfort), or of gaining access to Kings Park (suffice to say that shimmying up drain pipes have sure become a lot more difficult over the last 20 years!) and rather just report on the details of my conversation with John Plumtree.

Utopian John Plumtree: Hey! Earth 1 dude, how’s it going?

Sharksworld: Fine, fine, been busy, you know how it goes.

UJP: Yeah, tell me about it! Hey, I see you still haven’t done anything about your looks; you know, I know a fantastic plastic surgeon, I can give you his number, he’ll sort you out. He’s worked wonders with my ears; here, check these babies out!

SW: Uh, nice… but hey, I’m not here to chew the fat, I want to catch up with what you guys have been up to, I’ve been out of circulation for a while.

UJP: Yeah, where you been?

SW: *Frantically thinking up an excuse* Uh, I’ve been, uh… backpacking through South East Asia, yeah, that’s it!

UJP: Wow, cool! So, while you were there, did you eat at the night market in Krabi? Best tom yum goong in all of Thailand! Hey, and what those full moon parties on Koh Samui!? Although I’ve always favoured Koh Pangan myself. And have the fixed up the roads to Siem Riep yet? Man, those Cambodians are a friendly bunch though. I’ve always thou…*

SW: John, dude, focus! We’re talking rugby!

UJP: Oh yeah, sorry… So, what was the question again?

SW: There wasn’t one… but while we’re at it, how’re things going in the Currie Cup?

UJP: Pretty good, pretty good, we’re still firmly in contention for a home semi, but as I think I told you last time, this campaign is actually being used to prepare ourselves for next year’s Super 15, so we’re developing some depth, trying new players and combinations, etc. Basically, the process is more important than the result.

SW: I hear you. I’m particularly interested in what’s happening with the centres, because that’s where you struggled a bit in this year’s Super Rugby campaign.

UJP: Unfortunately, what you say is true, so it’s been a big focus area of ours. We’re not quite where we want to be, but at least the picture is becoming clearer.

SW: So what have you been doing?

UJP: Well, you may remember we contracted David Campese, and I’m happy to report we’ve managed to extend his contract. His input has been invaluable in terms of the backline in general, but with the centres specifically. In fact, he’s more or less running the show with regards to assessing and developing the centres.

SW: Can you give me some details?

UJP: Well, firstly, he clearly defined the roles/positions in which we were going to use people, so that we could focus our energy in the right place, and avoid messing the players around. So, competing for the 10 jersey we have Freddy Michalak and Pat Lambie, at 12 we have Meyer Bosman and Heimar Williams, and 13 we have Adi Jacobs and Piet Lindeque.

SW: What about Stefan Terblanche, Jacques-Louis Potgieter and Marius Joubert?

UJP: We’ve decided that Stefan is a fullback/wing, and that is where he has to compete for a spot in the team. As for the other two guys, I know that having players cover a multitude of positions is seen as something of a sin, but Jacques Louis is quite a versatile guy, and so he covers both 10 and 12. Marius played 12 and 13 in France, and we are currently looking at him in the same light. Which is of course not to say that any of these guys can’t make a position their own, ousting any of the so-called specialists. The point is more that we have decided to stop playing players out of position where they clearly have attributes geared for specific positions. So, not to put too fine a point on it, no 12 for Adi, or 13 for Stefan.

SW: Quite a mouthful, but how are you managing the guys to ensure adequate game time?

UJP: We’ve implemented a couple of, call them protocols, that we are adhering to pretty rigidly. Firstly, if a guy is on the substitute bench, and an opportunity has not yet arisen in the game for him to get on the park, then we send him on no later than the 55th minute, regardless of whether the game is in the balance. Remember, process, not outcome is the focus.

SW: That is very brave, but I applaud you for it. Must’ve been a bit of a hard sell?

UJP: Thanks. Not all that difficult, really. Firstly, I think the board is getting a bit fed up with our Currie Cup success not translating into higher honours, and realised we need to think outside the box. Secondly, remember that Sharksworld blog? Turns out the board are big fans, and there’s this dude, Cunning Bong, yeah I know, weird name, but anyways, he writes these little stories based on the premise that he visits some different dimensions, where he reports on a struggling Sharks team and what they do wrong. He’s kind of an amusing crackpot, but apparently the board thinks he’s some sort of visionary.

SW: Um…OK… Anyways, we were talking about centres, guaranteed game time, what else?

UJP: We’ve actually worked out a roster, so each guy gets a set number of consecutive games in a specific position during which time he then builds a case for himself. So for instance we started the three games with Bosman/Jacobs, with Joubert on the bench as a 13 and Jacques-Louis covering 12. Then we tried Bosman 12, Joubert 13, Lindeque and Potgieter on the bench. Then it will be Potgieter/Joubert, Williams and Lindeque on the bench… see what we’re getting at? Basically a player gets three games of guaranteed time from the bench before being introduced into the starting lineup, where he then gets a decent run. We’re doing something similar at flyhalf too, and we the roster includes game time for Joubert at 12 and Potgieter at 10.Obviously what is stated is somewhat idealised, as there are injuries and other factors, so we’ve had to be a liitle flexible. Luckily we know more or less what we have in Bosman and Jacobs, se we’ll be able to work it that they get adequate time from the bench to remain match fit while we test the other guys.

SW: Hasn’t that seriously disrupted the U-21’s?

UJP: It has, but again, we’ve had buy-in across all levels to work towards an ultimate goal of success for the Sharks senior team. Of course, it helps that we elevated Shaun Everett to Currie Cup coach, as you may remember… Bit of sneaky internal politics there *gives a grin that somehow accentuates his new, freakishly small ears*.

SW: Anything else?

UJP: Well, I’m not supposed to talk about it, but we’ve actually made a deal with one of the clubs in that we’ve released Odwa Ndungane to them for the season, on the understanding that he only plays 13. Odwa is a great, great player, very good feel for the game, but really just lacks the out and out pace required of a wing. So we’re trying a Tana Umaga move here. Eddie Jones works closely with him, and with the club, so that’s another benefit to them Of course, it’s not a guarantee that it’ll work, but we’re well covered in the wing department, and yet Odwa is too good not to use. So hopefully this is a win-win situation.

SW: …Frankly, I’m speechless… But I’m really looking forward to the remainder of your campaign!

UJP: Great, hope to see you soon.

So there you have it pretty much verbatim from Alternative Plumtree’s mouth, word for word. After all, would a face like this lie?



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