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How did we get here?

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 11 Mar 2015 at 15:07
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , ,

It seems just about everybody has a Sharks tighthead these days…. well, except for the Sharks, that is.

Slightly tongue-in-cheek, of course, but as an avid follower of Sharks youth rugby, I find myself completely dumbfounded by the current situation when it comes to our options in that most vital of jerseys, the number 3. There was a time, not too many years ago, when you couldn’t walk under a tree in Durban without the risk of a top quality young tighthead prop falling out of it. How can it now be that they honestly cannot even find a suitable deputy to alternate with Jannie du Plessis at Super Rugby level?

This piece is not about having a go at Matt Stevens, by the way, as popular a topic as that may be this week. Stevens, to me, is not the problem in and of himself, but is rather the symptom of a system that has failed to deliver in a crucial position. I’m keen to get to the bottom of why that should be.

It struck me as rather interesting to learn that Bart Le Roux, one of two good tightheads brought in as part of the under 19 intake three years ago, announced his departure for New Zealand pretty much concurrently with Stevens having his ass handed to him against the Stormers. Stefan van Schalkwyk, the other, is apparently at EP. The props who came in the year before those two, Allan Dell and Maks van Dyk are with Edinburgh and the Cheetahs respectively. Go back further and you’ll encounter the name of Nick Schonert (Worcester) – and so on and so on.

And that’s not even mentioning the really big ones, Wiehahn Herbst and Julian Redelinghuys.

I find myself in the uncomfortable and unprecedented position right now of being able to name the next player in line at tighthead after Stevens and Lourens Adriaanse. That’s a pretty shocking state of affairs given the depth that used to exist in our system. It’s worse if you consider that both Stevens and Adriaanse are essentially “outsiders” brought in over the last two seasons; for those not following, the implication is that the Sharks have allowed pretty much every single one of the tight head props they’ve developed over the last five years or so to leave. I’ve zeroed in on one particular position – I’m sure if we look at most others, the picture will be as bleak.

Forget what happens in Bloemfontein this week (when Jannie du Plessis again goes head to head with a former Sharks age-group prop who arguably got the better of him the last time they played). This procurement and succession issue is the one the Sharks have to – I repeat HAVE TO – fix in order to ensure success.


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