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The question of rotation


Written by Maria Delport (Letgo)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 9 Jul 2014 at 13:19
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why aren’t modern rugby coaches willing to implement rotation? Or at least, why won’t Jake White?

Although based on my observation of the Super Rugby season, I can’t say that any of the coaches have been willing to give their top players a rest. The players involved in the incoming tours during June, were the same players that have been kept on the field for most of the 80 minutes of most of the games. Are we just uninformed? Does fatigue not play the role we think it does?

I understand the pressure that a competitive competition like Super Rugby must present to a coach. The problem is, when there is a match every weekend for 6 months, you can’t expect players to play every match and be at their best at the end of the season. It’s the professional era, but no conditioning you do will protect players from burnout if they play this much. Fifteen well paid professionals would seemingly disagree with me. The question is, are their non-rotation policies based on pressure to produce results, or do they have data that prove that players do not require more than 2 weeks rest in a 6 month period? I have to say, I would be shocked if the latter were true.

What do I know though? None of these coaches have seen the need to rest their top players to give them the chance to recover and get back to peak physical fitness. Obviously it won’t shorten their careers or increase their chances of injury or have an impact on on either at all. They would obviously not select players every single game of the season if it would have an impact on their rugby and rugby future. Surely they would rest players if it would benefit the team. It would seem, that either I have a completely uninformed understanding of player fatigue or that in fact, coaches and players alike, really don’t care about the impact of over playing.

At the start of the season Jake White proclaimed something to the effect, “I will use Patrick Lambie at flyhalf for every game. He will play there every minute” If I can remember correctly, he indicated that Cobus Reinach and Patrick Lambie will grow a partnership this year and that he will play them together as much as possible. Clearly, there was no second option. No thoughts of rotation. No further thought of having a strong option to back both players up, specifically when they need a rest (not just when they are injured). Yes, I agree, these two looked excellent together and so did the team when they were playing together, but because there was no plan of “not using them”, the plan that was implemented when we could not use them, was clearly only an afterthought (because it was a plan that would only be implemented if we didn’t have any other choice).

Fred Zeilinga should not have been the afterthought. Zeilinga should have had a clear role from day one. What about this as a statement at the start of the season? Patrick Lambie and Cobus Reinach are our first choice. Fred and Charl will cover them off the bench, they will be given enough time to get comfortable in their roles. They will have to step in and take the lead to give our first choice guys time away from the game, a proper rest to recondition and hopefully we have planned it in a way that they would peak at the right time. Some players will need more rest than others and it could change during the season, but all of our second choice will play an important role, not only in keeping the team fit, but in performing when they are called on and giving us more options to choose from. The season is too long to rely on one guy to do it all.

Is this philosophy so preposterous?

Stephen Lewies earned his first Springbok cap in June. Would he even have played more than a couple of minutes here and there for the Sharks had Pieter-Steph du Toit not been ruled out with injury? Clearly he is ready to play, but even in this instance I doubt very highly that Pieter-Steph du Toit would have been granted a rest at any time during the season had he stayed injury free. Marcell Coetzee was also finally granted a rest once injury struck him down during the tour. Is that how players are being managed and new talents are being found?

Kyle Cooper is ready to play Super Rugby. Lourens Adriaanse is good enough for the Springboks! Marcell does not have to play every single game. We have 6 quality backrows. And even in positions where we are presumably struggling. Willem Alberts did not have to be selected out of position. Peet Marais will now play in France. Heimar Williams and Andre Esterhuizen will be picked up by other unions sooner or later.

Brendan Venter implemented rotation during the Currie Cup. I don’t know if he would have been so brave during Super Rugby, but someone needs to take the first step. The amount of rugby that is being played must benefit from proper rotation implementation. Can coaches not see this?



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