Monday, July 24, 2006

Rugby lessons

The Sharks, playing a game of patient ball retention and fantastic rolling mauls pulled out all the stops to come back from a significant first quarter deficit to beat the Bulls 37-28.

The All Blacks came out victors over the Boks by 35-17 (although the 2 tries apiece suggest the game was tighter than the scorline indicates).

Both of the All Blacks and the Sharks have been using the so-called squad rotation system. These teams have large squads and match teams are rotated from week-to-week to alleviate player burnout, and provide a broader base from which to select the best possible team for the games that really matter.

I wholeheartedly agree with Dan Retief's observations about Jake White's predicament last week: "But right now, the reliance on a single group of players is haunting him, with injuries hitting harder than they should. Graham Henry's dual squad system was planned well in advance, and the results are clear; Dick Muir may get a little flack for doing the same, but the Sharks will benefit in the long run. Blooding new players a year before a World Cup is cutting it fine, but perhaps there’s still time to broaden the base just a little."

This weekend was clear evidence of the benefits of this approach and while Muir may be haunted by the loss in the previous week to Griquas, the final count will only take place at the end of the season. The All Blacks have amazingly been able to win consistently with both their A and B teams.

Teams are measured on the their average performance over the season, and their ability to win the big games that count. They are not measured on individual perfomances. Much like golf, a blistering 18 holes on Day 2 of a tournament will grab a few headlines but those will quickly fade in the glare of a consistent  performance and a cool head over the last 9 holes by Tiger Woods.

The Springboks are lacking depth in certain areas, notably a backup kicker for Montgomery and a decent halfback combination. The Tri-Nations is probably a bit late to blood new players, as the unconfident performance by Pierre Spies against Australia showed but I, for one, will be willing to take the short-term knock if we can at least find a couple of world cup match winning potentials in the process. We have lost 3 games on the trot, it can't get that much worse (or can it?)

Now is time to at least blood five or six new players here. At least try Ruan Pienaar and Luke Watson?


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