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Rotation is vital, but winning on Friday is key

Written by Maria Delport (Letgo)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 24 Apr 2014 at 11:15
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , ,

We have all been talking about rotation. In 2013 Brendan Venter and his coaches successfully employed a rotation policy, where hardly any players were selected for more than two consecutive games. The result, a full strength squad, with plenty of good options to select from when the final stages of the competition neared – and let’s not forget the Currie Cup trophy at the end of it all.

I believe Jake White has already benefited from last year’s rotation policy. You can see how seamlessly players have slotted in when White has had to make changes. This year however, White has steered clear of making any unenforced changes and as far as possible, has tried to continue with the same team for the first 8 games of the competition, injuries permitting – and maybe injuries have been a factor in White sticking to the same team as far as possible. Even so, these injuries must be a clear red flag warning against continuing with the same players week in and week out. Fortunately, comments made by White during the week would indicate that the coach is well aware that some players are in need of a break.

“Jannie du Plessis can’t keep going on every single week, and it is the same with the Beast (Tendai Mtwarira),” said White.

Home games in the competition, especially this year, are just so vitally important that White didn’t feel that making changes before the last home game before the tour would be a good move.

“We have kept the team as intact as we can for a vital home game on the eve of the tour. But there is going to have to be rotation. When and how will be dependent on who we play and who is available for each specific game. Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Marcell Coetzee are also all due a break. We are going to have to make a call eventually and rotate them. We will tweak things a bit as we get on tour.”

It would seem that White has decided to hold out against making changes until the tour, where most teams have struggled to record a win. In fact, no South African team has managed a win across the Indian Ocean this year and resting key players under these circumstance might not be the worse idea. It could be that White will be resting a few players on tour, not because these games aren’t important, but because with the odds already stacked against you on tours, winning every other game becomes so much more important. Therefore Jake’s acute focus on this weekend’s game against the Highlanders and his insistence on keeping the continuity in selection, as much as he possibly could, is more than justified.

It’s not like White is writing off the games on tour though. Everyone knows to stand a chance of winning this competition you have to occupy one of those top 2 spots at the end of the competition and to do that, you will have to defy the odds and get a few points on tour.

“I don’t think you can read too much right now into where the competition is going to end up because the tough part starts now,” explains White. “It becomes do-or-die stuff, teams wanting to make the play-offs are going to have to win games whether they are home or away.”

“There is no doubt that the draw plays a significant part,” he admits. “And it’s not just about playing at home, but who you get, when you play them and what they are like at any particular point in the competition; some teams are historically very good at the start of the season, some very good at the end of the competition. You could get two away games in a row that you could win comfortably against a team suffering lots of injuries, or a team who start slowly, perhaps a few All Blacks in their side who toured at the end of the year. I don’t think it’s an exact science and the challenge we have is taking the momentum we have into the next stage.”

White explains the importance of winning this final home game and hints that winning this game will go a long way to picking up a few wins on tour.

“The thing about sport – any sport – is that you take confidence out of the momentum you build and I’d much rather be in the situation we are in now. We’ve played two away games, won one of them, so we have a 50% record away from home and a 100% record at home.”

Former captain Keegan Daniel gave his thoughts on the upcoming tour and how he feels the Sharks have been going and it would seem that the team are focused on keeping the winning momentum going.

“We knew at the start of the season that we had a favourable draw, a number of home games and it was crucial for us to win as many of those home games as possible, and we’ve managed to achieve that. Going on tour, we want to put ourselves in a strong position. As South African sides, we have possibly let ourselves down a bit on tour, not winning too many games. But we have a different approach to playing away games, we believe that you should be able to win. And playing the kind of rugby we are should be conducive to achieving that.” says Daniel.

New captain Bismarck du Plessis echoed Daniel’s thoughts.

“Every week is a must win for us. The pressure builds each time we run onto the field. We want to win all our home games, we want to create momentum, the Highlanders game on Friday night is a must-win for us definitely.

“I don’t think there is any lack of desire. We’re playing in front of our home crowd and it will be five weeks before we play here again.”


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