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So what’s up with Dale’s socks?

Written by André Meyer (Culling Song)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Sharks, Super Rugby on 18 Apr 2012 at 10:25
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

Regular readers will have noted how a few off-hand comments made on this site yesterday about Dale Chadwick’s perennially-around-the-ankle socks escalated into the kind of verbal trench warfare rarely seen outside of American politics.

Given that this is clearly a highly emotive issue, with strong stances and deeply held opinions abounding, I have decided to add some fuel to the fire, After all, what’s more fun than a bit of anarchy, chaos and mayhem?

From what I could gather, on the one hand there’s a school of thought that suggest by running onto the field of play with socks around the ankles, the player is not showing the necessary deference the Sharks’ uniform, and by inference the union and fans, and that this is potentially indicative of a disrespectful attitude and lack of discipline.

On the opposing side, there’s the “conformity breeds mediocrity” argument; namely that the players are highly-paid professionals, employed for their individual abilities on the field, and as such allowances for individual quirks and preferences have to be made if we want to get the best from the players, rather than having a set of pre-programmed, unthinking robots executing a series of set plays.

As with most things in life, the answer probably lies in the grey area between these two defined extremes. Looking at the history of the Sharks, we will note that the team that so famously broke our Currie Cup drought in 1990 was led by Craig Jameson, whose socks were also noted for their propensity of succumbing to gravity’s irresistible pull. Similarly, there is no shortage of available photos of Wahl Bartmann and Gary Teichmann with their socks in the lowered position, and this never seemed to affect their much-vaunted leadership abilities.

What is clear though is that these players plied there trade at a time when the Sharks team was well drilled, and discipline formed part of the team DNA, which made it rather easier to allow some elbow room for the scruffy okes (many of whom could now slot into the Sharks Legend category – Cabous van der Westhuizen, anyone?) without adversely affecting the culture of the team.

More recently, in his stint as head coach, Hugh Reece-Edwards had a laissez-faire approach to player management which, if memory serves, landed us at the bottom rung of the Super 12 log. On taking over the helm, Rudolf Streauli (himself a limited coach in the eyes of many) steered the same group of players to two consecutive Currie Cup- and one Super 12 final, with a near-dictatorial approach to discipline and team-over-individual being one of the cornerstones of his success. Certainly, in this case a philosophy of “pay attention the small things, and the big things will take care of themselves” reaped rich dividends.

Simply put, there is no right or wrong. Different people respond to influences differently, and it’s the management team’s unenviable task of determining what approach and philosophy works best in each specific environment and set or circumstances.

Morné has noted before that commitment on defence (or lack thereof) is one of the clearest indicators of the pride, discipline and camaraderie in a team. For my money, Dale’s socks wouldn’t have been such a big issue if the aforementioned qualities did not seem so sorely lacking at the Sharks. Had the Sharks played with the same kind of commitment and team cohesion we see from the Stormers in ’012, or the Reds in ’011, then Dale could have worn his socks on his unmentionables, Red Hot Chilli Peppers-style for all I cared. Right now though, those socks seem to be emblematic of a larger malaise blighting the Sharks, one which, if not addressed soon, is likely to see us fans endure yet another frustrating “so close yet ultimately meaningless” set of results.


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