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Experience, utility factor in tour selections

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 23 Apr 2013 at 10:02
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sharksworld had the opportunity to have a direct and open discussion with Sharks Commercial Director Rudolf Straeuli yesterday, regarding some of the more, shall we say, “contentious” selection decisions for the Sharks tour.

We posed a few questions to the Union, on behalf of fans and other interested parties who wanted to know, in a nutshell, why the likes of Derick Minnie, Piet Lindeque and Andries Coetzee had been selected for the tour, rather than backing locally developed players from the Sharks XV. It must be noted, of course, that Coetzee’s injury has made at least one of those issue “go away”, but it’s nevertheless interesting to understand the thought process, especially now that another Lions loan-man, JC van Rensburg, has been brought in to replace Beast Mtawarira.

Let’s start by pointing out that, of the 26 players originally named to tour, 17 have come through the Sharks ranks, all the way from junior level. Also, note that 8 of the original 26 are still in their first season of Super Rugby, meaning that the squad definitely has somewhat of a youthful look to it. I feel it’s important to point out these two factors off the bat, because they prove that the Sharks ARE willing to back their own talent and ARE willing to give young players a chance, for the most part.

Remember also that John Plumtree and his assistant coaches (who, by the way, have sole discretion for all selection matters) would have sat down a while ago – perhaps even at the start of the season, to compose a sensible 26-man tour party from the options available. The process would, I’m sure, have revolved around selecting the right blend of youth and experience, as well as ensuring that enough utility players were included to ensure adequate coverage across the board.

In other words, we need to look at the players brought in from outside and compare them to the injured seniors they’re replacing, rather than the Sharks juniors they’re displacing, if that makes sense. Take Francois Kleinahns (or Brynard Stander) as an example. Injuries to Jacques Botes and Willem Alberts have opened the door for the inclusion of Derick Minnie, but it’s exactly the fact that Minnie can play both open and blind side flanker, as well as his experience, that tips the scales in his favour. Kleinhans and Stander are both seen as specialists in a single position and with just a handful of Currie Cup caps between them, hence it was clearly felt that a more seasoned and versatile campaigner would better fill the short term gap.

Coetzee’s initial selection was based on very similar thinking. The loss of Louis Ludik necessitated the inclusion of a player comfortable at either wing or fullback; that was why both Coetzee and Sean Robinson were preferred to S’bura Sithole, who’s seen as an out-and-out winger, or Gouws Prinsloo, who’s a specialist fullback.

Lindeque’s case is a little different. Straeuli acknowledged that he was brought in on the back of a very good Varsity Cup campaign for Tuks and given how well he knows the players, coaches and setup, I feel that he’s far more a “Sharks man” than he is in “imported loan player” anyway. In his case, it was simple, though; since losing Tim Whitehead, who was always earmarked to be a key player on tour, the Sharks have ended up with literally only a single option at outside centre, namely Paul Jordaan. Lindeque has been brought in as cover for Jordaan, with the fact that he can play wing as well only adding to his utility value.

So there you have it – while many may not necessarily agree with these decisions, I think it’s important to at least understand some of the thinking behind them and I’m really grateful to Rudolf for sharing some of that thinking with us.


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