Rugga World reader, Shields, explores our tight five combinations and postulates that there is reason behind Jake’s thinking
Before you read this article please be aware of two things. Firstly, I am a Jake White fan and secondly I have never played lock in my life. I thus write this article to get some information from those in the know and to hopefully influence some of your critique against the squad, and specifically against Albert VD Berg.
Few of you will argue against the scrum and the line-out being the most important set-phases in the game. Most International coaches seem to be obsessed with these facets and for good reason. The reasons why this is so should be well known to all who comment on this site, if a little obscure to the average Voldy muppet. For this reason I will not dwell on it.
My understanding of these two plays is that in each play there are 2 or 3 players whose communication or lack of it can make or break the set-piece. In the scrum the No 9 and the No 2 must be in unison with the call and the tempo of execution. With the line-out the No 2 and the Jumper (usually 4 or 5) must know the call with the no 9 having to understand where the ball will be delivered. So to deduct from the above logic it is sufficient to say that on any given day, and in any given match, the communication between players no 2, 4/5 and 9 must be very good to ensure the successful execution of these vital set pieces.
Furthermore it is logical to suggest that the longer these players play together as a combination, the more chances they have of communicating well, which subsequently ensures the better execution of the set piece.
Is it therefore odd to find in our current Springbok setup 2 such combinations which play together (and will be expected to play together even more during the Super 14) for the Sharks and the Bulls?
Lets look at combination one: Fourie Du Preez feeds Gary Botha/Chiliboy in the scrum ; and Botha/Chiliboy feeds Matfield/Bakkies/Roussouw/Wannenberg/Spies in the line-out, with Du Preez in on the call. All are current Springboks and all will play together regularly during the Super 14 months before the World Cup.
In combination 2: Ruan Pienaar feeds John Smit in the scrum and in the line-out, Smit feeds Ackerman/VD Berg/Muller with Pienaar in on the call. All are current Springboks who will play together regularly during the Super 14 months before the World Cup.
All of a sudden it seems outrageous to even contemplate selecting a player like Barend Pieterse out of the Blue to come and learn the Bok line-out strategy and to gel with players whom he will never play with bar the odd Bok game?
Looking at this rationale it will not surprise me to see a player like Bismarck Du Plessis come in should Botha/Chillyboy get injured. This to keep the dual combination setup in place. By the same token it will not surprise to see all 4 players replaced should the combination not fire. If Barends continues to impress and say the Sharks combo fall by the wayside, we can expect to see Strauss and Duncan enter the fray together with Claasens. Or Tiaan Liebenberg together with Skeate, Vd Merwe and Bolla?
Am I reading too much into this combination or does it make sense to anyone else? Point is the form or impact of an individual player (such as VD Berg) become irrelevant in such a scenario. No matter how good any other provincial lock performs it will still be a gamble to select him for Bok duty if he does not operate within such a combination on a continuous basis during the Super 14 and the Currie Cup.
[Thank you to Shields for leaping into the unknown and offering us his thoughts for debate.]