The player management debate
- 25 Jun 2013
We asked SARugbymag.co.za editor SIMON BORCHARDT and senior sports writer JON CARDINELLI: Should the Sharks and Stormers play their best possible teams in the final rounds of Super Rugby?
The Sharks and Stormers both still have a mathematical chance of qualifying for the play-offs, so they've definitely got to play their best teams until they are totally out of contention. But even if/when their hopes are extinguished, they owe it to their fans to remain at full strength, win their remaining matches and finish as high up on the log as possible.
You don't use Super Rugby to prepare for the next Super Rugby season by resting top players and starting fringe players – that's what the Currie Cup is for.
Outgoing Sharks coach John Plumtree will also want to finish his five-year tenure on a high with three consecutive wins, while three wins would do a lot to ease the pressure on embattled Stormers coach Allister Coetzee. Could you blame either of them for picking their Boks?
Of course, if certain Bok players have niggling injuries, then they should not be played (like Jean de Villiers, who has not fully recovered from a sternum injury). But if they're fit, they must fulfill their franchise obligations.
While I appreciate that both teams have been hit hard by injuries this season, I really believe that it's time to give some of the overplayed senior statesmen a break. The Sharks sit at 10th and the Stormers at 11th on the Super Rugby log and neither team has a realistic chance of qualifying for the play-offs. This is one of the rare occasions where a coach should put the needs of the individual ahead of the needs of the team.
Resting Jean de Villiers, for example, will allow the veteran centre time to recuperate ahead of the Rugby Championship. De Villiers has played non-stop for both the Stormers and Boks over the past 18 months, and as the sports scientists will tell you, he's a serious injury waiting to happen.
I also wouldn't be rushing back No 8 Duane Vermeulen from his knee injury, and would want him to rehabilitate with that all-important international competition in mind. The Sharks would do well to give tighthead Jannie du Plessis a break, and Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has already spoken about Marcell Coetzee's workload over the past two seasons and how it is starting to impact negatively on the hardworking flanker's output.
I'm not advocating a blanket ban on all Springboks during these last three league matches of Super Rugby. I'm merely hoping that some common sense will prevail and that senior players will not be risked unnecessarily.
There are, in fact, a few Boks who will benefit from the next three matches. Bismarck du Plessis hasn't played Super Rugby this season, while Beast Mtawarira and Eben Etzebeth's game time has been limited because of injuries.
No doubt the Sharks and Stormers will be looking to finish their disappointing campaigns on a high, but it's a lose-lose situation persisting with some of the more battle-weary campaigners, who are very much on the brink of a serious breakdown.
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