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There’s lies, damn lies, and then there’s stats…

Written by André Meyer (Culling Song)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 14 Nov 2011 at 14:40
Tagged with : , , ,

So 2011 has come and gone (at least from a rugby perspective), and once again we, the Sharks fans, are faced with the familiar prospect of a year that, despite the cards being stacked in our favour (favourable Super 15 draw; talented, settled, and largely happy squad; player depth in all positions) failed to live up to our lofty, and not entirely unreasonable expectations. As can be expected in such a situation, there has been a lot of commentary, critique, speculation and wishes for what could have-, or should have been from all quarters. One particular aspect that has been very much a topic of debate has been the perceived failings of the Sharks’ recruitment- and succession planning/youth development program.

While I have been one of the people at the forefront of the “we need to back our young players” chorus, the fact remains that young players normally need time to mature and be ready for the demands of top-flight rugby. Alternatively, it is entirely possible for junior players to have reached the required skill and conditioning level, only to find themselves faced with little to no opportunities to break into the senior squad due to low player turnover, in which case they may decide to seek their fortunes elsewhere. It is of course also entirely possible that players who display all the necessary potential and performance levels as juniors never quite manage to make the final step up.

What should be clear from above is that situations can and do arise whereby the departure of senior players result in vacancies for which there are simply no suitable junior candidates available, regardless of how well the union’s succession program is run. Clearly, the recruitment of external players must necessarily form an integral part of any successful union’s strategy, with the important aspect being how well these recruitments are integrated with existing player development programs. So with that in mind I decided to forego my usual emotional/hysterical/delusional approach, and rather look at the facts objectively (in other words, using the What Would Morné Do? approach) in a quest to answer the following two questions:

  1. How good/bad* are the Sharks at recruiting?
  2. How good/bad* are the Sharks at developing talent?

(*Settle down, I am well aware that preaching objectivity and then using woolly and imprecise terms like good & bad on a site overrun by accountants and actuaries and statisticians and people hung up spelling and other sticklers for detail is just asking to be lectured at, so to save you all the effort I’ve pointed out my failings upfront. Forewarned is forearmed and all that jazz.)

In order to arrive at some sort of sensible conclusion, I have compiled a list of the Sharks squads from 2007 to present. 2007 has been specifically selected as a starting point as that was arguably the year of our highest achievement, when we almost won (and should have won) the Super 14. Furthermore, the 2007 squad appears to the most highly regarded squad of the last decade or so in the mind of most Sharks fans. The squad lists are tabulated below, and the following applies to the information listed:

-       Squads listed are a combination of both the Super Rugby and Currie Cup squads for the year. By virtue of players losses to Springbok duty, the Currie Cup squads tend to feature more fringe players, who do not necessarily feature strongly in terms of game time

-       External player acquisitions during each year is highlighted in red, with the union (or country, in the event of players playing abroad) being listed after the player’s name

-       Players highlighted in blue are players who have been added to the senior squad having come through at least once preceding season of junior rugby, be it U-21’s, Vodacom Cup, etc.

-       Players to have left the squad during or at the end of the year’s names are marked with a strikethrough

2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Props BJ Botha BJ Botha BJ Botha
Tendai Mtawarira Tendai Mtawarira Tendai Mtawarira Tendai Mtawarira Tendai Mtawarira
Deon Carstens Deon Carstens Deon Carstens Deon Carstens Patric Cilliers
Patric Cilliers Patric Cilliers Patric Cilliers Patric Cilliers Jannie du Plessis
Kees Lensing Kees Lensing Robbie Harris Jannie du Plessis Dale Chadwick
Robbie Harris (Pumas) Robbie Harris Jannie du Plessis Melusi Mthethwa Wiehahn Herbst
David Hawksworth David Hawksworth Melusi Mthethwa Dale Chadwick Julian Redelinghuys
Ronnie Uys (Leopards) Ronnie Uys Dale Chadwick Wiehahn Herbst Sabelo Nhlapo
Jannie du Plessis (FS) Wiehahn Herbst Julian Redelinghuys Eugene van Staden
Melusi Mthethwa Julian Redelinghuys Sabelo Nhlapo
Eugene van Staden (France)
Hookers Skipper Badenhorst Skipper Badenhorst Skipper Badenhorst Skipper Badenhorst Bismarck du Plessis
Bismarck du Plessis Bismarck du Plessis Bismarck du Plessis Bismarck du Plessis John Smit
John Smit John Smit John Smit John Smit Craig Burden
Craig Burden Craig Burden Craig Burden Craig Burden Kyle Cooper
Jody Jenneker Jody Jenneker Kyle Cooper Monde Hadebe
Pellow vd Westhuizen (Leopards) Pellow vd Westhuizen
Locks Johann Ackermann Johann Ackermann Johann Muller Johann Muller Steven Sykes
Johann Muller Johann Muller Steven Sykes Steven Sykes Ali Hargreaves
Steven Sykes Steven Sykes Albert van den Berg Ali Hargreaves Gerhard Mostert
Albert van den Berg Albert van den Berg Ali Hargreaves Gerhard Mostert (Lions) Anton Bresler
Dewald Senekal Ali Hargreaves Wilhelm Steenkamp (Bulls) Ross Skeate
Ali Hargreaves Wouter Moore Anton Bresler Jandre Marais
Wouter Moore (FS) Jeandre Mynhardt Ross Skeate (France) Peet Marais
Jeandre Mynhardt  (Leopards) Joe Snyman
Loose Forwards Jacques Botes Jacques Botes Jacques Botes Jacques Botes Jacques Botes
Warren Britz Warren Britz Keegan Daniel Keegan Daniel Keegan Daniel
Keegan Daniel Keegan Daniel Ryan Kankowski Ryan Kankowski Ryan Kankowski
Ryan Kankowski Ryan Kankowski Nikolai Blignaut Nikolai Blignaut Jean Deysel
Bob Skinstad Bob Skinstad Jean Deysel Jean Deysel Skholiwe Ndlovu
AJ Venter AJ Venter Skholiwe Ndlovu Skholiwe Ndlovu Mike Rhodes
Nikolai Blignaut Nikolai Blignaut Nic Strauss Justin Downey Willem Alberts
Jean Deysel (Lions) Jean Deysel Justin Downey Mike Rhodes Marcell Coetzee
Thabo Mamojele (Pumas) Thabo Mamojele Mike Rhodes Willem Alberts (Lions) Lambert Groenewald
Skholiwe Ndlovu Skholiwe Ndlovu Daniel Adongo
Epi Taone (Tonga) Francois Kleinhans
Rudie Mathee (Lions) Lubabalo Mthembu
Nic Strauss (UK)
Scrumhalves Ruan Pienaar Ruan Pienaar Ruan Pienaar Ruan Pienaar Ruan Pienaar
Sandile Nxumalo Sandile Nxumalo Rory Kockott Rory Kockott Rory Kockott
Rory Kockott Rory Kockott Scott Mathie Charl McCleod Charl McCleod
Scott Mathie Scott Mathie Charl McCleod Ross Cronje Ross Cronje
Neil Cole Neil Cole Ross Cronje Conrad Hoffman (WP)
Charl McCleod (Valke) Cobus Reinach
Flyhalves Butch James Butch James Monty Dumond Monty Dumond Monty Dumond
Monty Dumond (WP) Monty Dumond Frederic Michalak Guy Cronje Guy Cronje
Tiaan Marx (Leopards) Tiaan Marx Andrew Borgen Juan Martin Hernandez Patrick Lambie
Frederic Michalak (France) Guy Cronje Patrick Lambie Steve Meyer
Andrew Borgen Juan Martin Hernandez (Arg.) Len Olivier Andre Pretorius
Patrick Lambie Andy Goode (UK) Frederic Michalak (France)
Len Olivier (Valke) Steve Meyer (France) Jacques-Louis Potgieter (Bulls)
Andre Pretorius (Aus)
Centres Brad Barritt Brad Barritt Brad Barritt
Gcobani Bobo Gcobani Bobo Waylon Murray Waylon Murray Adi Jacobs
Waylon Murray Waylon Murray Adi Jacobs Adi Jacobs Andries Strauss
Grant Rees Grant Rees Andries Strauss Andries Strauss Riaan Swanepoel
Adi Jacobs Adi Jacobs Riaan Swanepoel Riaan Swanepoel Luzuko Vulindlu
Andries Strauss Andries Strauss Luzuko Vulindlu Luzuko Vulindlu Meyer Bosman (FS)
Dumisane Matyeshana (Leopards) Dumisane Matyeshana Lionel Mapoe (FS) Marius Joubert (France)
Riaan Swanepoel Paul Jordaan
Heimar Williams
Back Three Odwa Ndungane Odwa Ndungane Odwa Ndungane Odwa Ndungane Odwa Ndungane
Dusty Noble Dusty Noble JP Pietersen JP Pietersen JP Pietersen
Howard Noble Howard Noble Henno Mentz Stefan Terblanche Stefan Terblanche
JP Pietersen JP Pietersen Frans Steyn Chris Jordaan Lwazi Mvovo
Henno Mentz Henno Mentz Stefan Terblanche Lwazi Mvovo Louis Ludik
Frans Steyn Frans Steyn Wesley Bodmer Louis Ludik (Lions) Gouws Prinsloo
Cedric Mkhize Cedric Mkhize Chris Jordaan Mark Richards
Stefan Terblanche (Wales) Stefan Terblanche Lwazi Mvovo Sbura Sithole
Wesley Bodmer Rosco Specman
Chris Jordaan
Lwazi Mvovo

All of the above is obviously a lot of information to digest in one go, even for detail junkies. In order to make it more digestible, I have grouped the names of additions to the squad into 3 categories, namely recruitments from the big 4 unions (WP, Bulls, Lions, FS) and abroad, recruitments from small unions, and internally developed players.

Recruited From Big Unions Recruited From Small Unions Juniors
1 Wouter Moore Robbie Harris David Hawksworth
2 Jean Deysel Ronnie Uys Craig Burden
3 Monty Dumond Pellow vd Westhuizen Jody Jenneker
4 Stefan Terblanche Jeandre Mynhardt Ali Hargreaves
5 Jannie du Plessis Thabo Mamojele Nikolai Blignaut
6 Epi Taone Tiaan Marx Skholiwe Ndlovu
7 Rudie Mathee Dumisane Matyeshana Neil Cole
8 Frederic Michalak Charl McCleod Melusi Mthethwa
9 Juan Martin Hernandez Len Olivier Joe Snyman
10 Gerhard Mostert Nic Strauss
11 Wilhelm Steenkamp Andrew Borgen
12 Ross Skeate Riaan Swanepoel
13 Willem Alberts Wesley Bodmer
14 Andy Goode Chris Jordaan
15 Steve Meyer Lwazi Mvovo
16 Andre Pretorius Dale Chadwick
17 Lionel Mapoe Wiehahn Herbst
18 Louis Ludik Julian Redelinghuys
19 Conrad Hoffman Justin Downey
20 Jacques-Louis Potgieter Mike Rhodes
21 Meyer Bosman Ross Cronje
22 Marius Joubert Guy Cronje
23 Patrick Lambie
24 Luzuko Vulindlu
25 Sabelo Nhlapo
26 Kyle Cooper
27 Anton Bresler
28 Monde Hadebe
29 Jandre Marais
30 Peet Marais
31 Marcell Coetzee
32 Lambert Groenewald
33 Daniel Adongo
34 Francois Kleinhans
35 Lubabalo Mthembu
36 Cobus Reinach
37 Paul Jordaan
38 Heimar Williams
39 Gouws Prinsloo
40 Mark Richards
41 Sbura Sithole
42 Rosco Specman

When viewed like this, some trends emerge. Firstly, with regards to external recruitments, the Sharks clearly favour recruiting from larger unions or abroad, with these signings (22 in total) outnumbering signings from smaller unions (9) by more than 100%. Furthermore, the rate of signing from large unions appears to be on the increase, whereas the last small-union signings were made in 2008 and 2009 (one in each year). Interestingly enough, the number of juniors added to the squad (42) during the period being observed outnumbers external recruitments by 33%, and the number of juniors added to the squad peaked in 2011.

All of the aforementioned would at first glance suggest a healthy developmental plan delivering a steady stream of juniors into the senior ranks. However, the devil is in the detail as they say, and it is on closer inspection of the three categories that some of the underlying problems are thrown in clear relief. Asking the question: “How much value has each person added to the Sharks?” in each of the three categories causes the proverbial can of worms to open.

In terms of the external recruitments from large unions, only 6 players (Deysel, Terblanche, Du Plessis, Skeate, Alberts and Ludik) can be said to have added value over a period in excess of a year. Arguably, it could be said Fred Michalak, although only contracted for around a year (on two separate occasions) has justified the expense incurred to sign him, while the jury is still out on the recent signings of Bosman, Hoffman and Joubert (although when I ran into the jury over lunch in the canteen, they looked far from happy). As for Jacques-Louis Potgieter, the mere fact that he has so rarely been utilised makes him a poor investment, regardless of talent or ability. As for smaller union signings, only Charl McCleod can be thought of as a decent investment. What this translates to in terms of recruitments from beyond the union adding value is an current effectiveness of 26% (8 out of 31), with a potential of rising to 33% (11/33) should our 2011 signings prove their worth. Not particularly inspiring reading, particularly when combined with the contracting disasters of Taone, Mapoe and Meyer.

Applying the same logic to juniors, we find that 10 players (Burden, Swanepoel, Hargreaves, Mvovo, Chadwick, Herbst, Lambie, Bresler, Coetzee, Sithole) have had regular game time as part of the senior squad, with an additional 3 (Cooper, Jandre Marais, Richards) having consistently been on the fringes of the squad. Hauling out my mad mathematical skillz, that translates to 24 – 31% (10/13 out of 42) effectiveness.

Even more perturbing in the bigger picture is the alarmingly high number of players, particularly from the smaller union recruitments and junior ranks who are brought into the squad, only to vanish from the face of planet Sharks within the year, or to remain on the outside without ever getting a look in.

While there is still much that can be gleaned from the info, I’ll leave that to the more technically astute among you. If the information presented was a little dry and overly-detailed, I apologise – more drug-fuelled madness next time, I promise. What I hope is that this provides some though for thought, cause for debate, and possible an overhaul of a very, very important (and poorly functioning) aspect of Sharks Rugby. Until then, I live in hope!


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