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Allow players to develop

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Timing is everything in rugby. One minute too early or too long and you get it completely wrong and it could cost you a game, a career or a job. Over the years we have seen players thrust into the deep end too early and it has either hampered their careers for good or they trickle down into the unknown, By Benedict Chanakira 

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The Ardie Savea story is the most exciting. One of the most explosive loose forwards in the world is making waves but is deemed still not ready to be a regular Test player. Despite consistent and dominant performances in Super Rugby he continues to be eased into the role.

Savea made his Test debut this season and his first start last week. In 2013 he was an apprentice in the senior All Black squad, being guided on what was required, not just physically but also mentally and technically. The Springboks did the same with Lizo Gqoboka and Seabelo Senatla who are tipped to don the green and gold for the Springboks.

We face that challenge in South Africa, over the last few months many of us have been at hand to campaign for the inclusion of Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Curwin Bosch, Ox Nche and many more young talents in the Springbok set up immediately in some capacity. These are bright young talents which may need a bit of time to address their weaknesses, their mental aptitude and a general understanding and progression on how to deal with rugby at the highest level.

But we have a habit of jumping onto the bandwagon and trumpeting the next young talent into the national set up too early, for some to immediate demise?

History has a habit of repeating itself. Danie Craven made his Springbok debut at 21 and retired a legend. Players like Eben Etzebeth, Schalk Burger and Francois Steyn are among many who have proven that if you have the ability you can seamlessly fit into Test rugby.

Unfortunately others have proven that the step up came too early in their careers such as Chilliboy Ralepelle, Danie van Schalkwyk, Gaffie du Toit to mention a few.  Some players disappear from the sport completely, financially struggled with no back up plan and then end up in the wrong social circles.

The apprentice approach seems to allow for a closer look at the players, which can be aided by the use of the ‘A’ sides. Psychologically – the most neglected, yet important aspect of the game. Is an area players need to develop to be able to deal with the pressures and the transition from the cauldrons of school boy rugby into the dark arts of professional rugby, young players will need a mind shift. Players will be introduced to a much more important aspect of playing- working hard and not just relying on talent.

Some will cope and excel and for some the hype will be too much. Time allows the mental, physical, technical, temperamental abilities to grow. Areas that are paramount to playing professional rugby.  Players usually struggle with the pressure, the intensity, and dealing with fair-weather fans.

An excellent initiative that would have done their rugby a great deal of good, as they are afforded many a lesson, experience with the introduction of the SA A squad a master stroke initiative. This allowed players to come into the ‘international set up and offered fans the window to see whether players were able to step up. Several struggled. If selected properly being the key, it could allow South Africa to groom and develop the future internationals in the same way the Saxons, Maori All Blacks and other ‘A’ teams have managed to do. Based on the SA ‘A’ evidence we saw the woes Malcolm Marx faced with the line out and the inability of young Garth April to general a game despite a dominant pack.

The challenge is to be able to introduce young talent without damaging their development. An ability to harness the talent in the players to let them become world stars that will compete and survive on the international scene. The use of apprenticeship and the SA ‘A’ side should play a far bigger role in the overall nurturing of talent. Let us allow our players to play when ready for the step up which is done after closer introspection and planning.

 

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5 COMMENTS

  1. I fully agree with this article. The problem I have though, is that we do not have an SA A side that plays 5 to 6 matches a year. We need that and it needs to be a squad of fringe players. Rohan wasn’t even in that squad, which is stupid to me. We need an SA A squad filled with fringe players, that are going to be Boks in the next year or so. Sadly we will lose talent the way it is going now, as it is either swim when thrown in the deep end, or disappear while we wait for you to grow.

    The players can be included in the Bok squad, even if it is just to acclimatize to the needs in the squad. We do not have the luxury of an A side. That team that played the saxons was a once off. Unless there is a tour planned for them for year end. The guys need somewhere to show if they’re ready. Not happening. We are not nurturing young talent, the solution from where I sit looks so simple, yet it seems it is not.

  2. The thing… many youngsters have been introduced immediately with great success across the nations…

    @Aldo:

    Exactly correct… the likes of Milner Skudder did not just ‘arrive’ on the test scene… they played Maori AB’s or Junior AB’s or NZ Barbarians first…

    However it’s become apparent that The Bok ‘A’ side is the new Emerging Boks debacle… a vehicle for window dressing with not real thought, cohesiveness with the Boks nor planning… the last side was a joke give or take a few players…

  3. Throwing one of RSA’s brightest stars into test rugby is far better than playing an average out-of-position player that has never succeeded at this level…

  4. Yep BC is right – Bosch, Nche and Rohan should all be boks.

    We do have very good centres at the moment. DDA is v good, just needs to regain confidence

    Center is not our problem. Without a pack and gameplan with attacking intent, don’t make the slightest iota of difference if you got Danie Gerber at centre.

  5. Benedict, I agree 100%.

    Both Beauden Barrett and Sam Cane had close to 40 caps for the All Blacks before this year when they became first choice starters.

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