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Is there room for Pottie?

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 11 May 2015 at 10:19
Tagged with : , , , , ,

The Sharks’ decision to sign Waratah loose forward Jacques Potgieter for Super Rugby, starting next year, hasn’t met with universal approval. Let’s look at the specifics in a little more detail before being too hasty to reach a conclusion.

An online interview with former Sharks captain Gary Teichmann last week raised some doubts about the acquisition, with Teichmann questioning the wisdom in signing an older player when the Sharks have talented youngsters like Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez already in the system. Without knowing Gary personally, I can’t really say what his motives were in saying what he said but as a man of integrity, I doubt he would have gone out of his way to make a big scene; rather this is likely to be a case of a journalist asking a seemingly innocent question and then spinning the resulting (honest) answer into something it wasn’t meant to be.

Regardless of any journalistic licence, though, we have to acknowledge that Teichmann’s point is valid and at least warrants discussion. After all, this signing does come against a backdrop of a number of a number of cases in the past where the decision to sign an experienced player from elsewhere has had a detrimental effect on the development (read gametime) of juniors already in the system. Those who are regular readers of this site will know that Gary and I are pretty much of one accord when it comes to this point and that I would personally always pick a young player rather than opting to shop around outside.

Neither Gary Teichmann, nor Rob Otto, is responsible or accountable for results, though. That’s a pretty key point. We’ve seen just how impatient the average Sharks fan can be and while we like to say that we back the youth, we’re also rather unforgiving when it comes to mistakes. All the talk of being “like the Lions” and starting from square one with a young squad seems idyllic, until you start to count the number of losses along the way and the amount of patience and understanding that a fickle fan base will need to invest in such a process.

So let’s assume that the Sharks are always going to want to put as competitive a side on the pitch as they can – at least in Super Rugby – and look to ensure that they balance the needs of younger players against fan expectations through sensible rotation of a squad that contains a mix of players. Assume also that at least one or two big names are going to drop off the loose forward roster after this year’s World Cup – since it’s incredibly naive to assume that the Sharks are going to retain every player currently in the mix. Can Potgieter be accommodated under these circumstances?

For starters, we need to acknowledge that he comes for Super Rugby only; it was recently reported that the player has signed on with Japanese team Sanix until the end of 2017, meaning he’ll not play any Currie Cup rugby for the Sharks. This is not really an ideal model for anyone in South Africa but it’s a reality of the modern game and every local franchise now finds themselves having to accommodate such deals. In other words, there is still plenty of time for the du Preez twins (who we must remember still have two years of under 21 eligibility left) to establish themselves as senior options by playing a starting role in Currie Cup – and I would imagine that would happen from this year already. We’ve all seen how Super Rugby attrition takes its toll on back row players and I would be very surprised if we didn’t see Potgieter and the two du Preez boys used extensively in Super Rugby over the next two seasons. Just look at this year, as an example, with the Sharks forced to pick Kyle Cooper as loose forward reserve due to the loss of four other players (or six if you consider that the self-same twins are unavailable due to Junior Springbok commitments).

If there’s one thing that we surely MUST have learned by now, it’s that depth is non-negotiable in Super Rugby. With the Sharks, like many other teams, sure to lose a few big names after the World Cup, the addition of loose forward options like Jacques Potgieter and Renaldo Bothma makes a fair amount of sense and does not automatically mean that Daniel and Jean-Luc du Preez will be blocked from progressing. I’m quite sure that even Gary Teichmann would agree, if he thought it through a bit more.


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