If anything, the Sharks Currie Cup success has allowed me to revisit a favourite old topic of mine.
Following the Currie Cup victory in Durban last Saturday, I was pleased to read a piece by Gavin Rich on SuperRugby where he repeated what has been mentioned quite often in 2010, the game plan or strategy of the Sharks throughout the season and how it was very similar to the All Blacks.
The reference was mainly to the ruck or tackled area, and how possession under the new laws are key.
Most of you that read my columns will now that I am quite amused by South African’s fascination of the ‘fetcher-theory’ in rugby, something that is a favourite media topic in criticising specifically Bok selections and something that has become even more of a hot topic since Heinrich Brussow’s stellar year in 2009.
A couple of months ago already I wrote a column on how I believe we are reading too much into this area, or specific role and position in the game of rugby union.
Not to take anything away from those unfortunate souls who are categorised as fetchers, but thanks to the Sharks I think this point is again re-enforced.
In the final, as was the case for most of the season, the Sharks went into the game without a recognised or specialist fetcher. Ho-hum how could they!!!??? I mean given the media fascination regarding this position or role I was sure that I would see inches, no wait, meters of column space dedicated on the fact how Western Province’s loosies with Springbok ‘fetcher’ Francois Louw in their team was going to murder them at the breakdown… Low and behold, there was not a single comment, let alone a feature piece.
Why would that be then? Would it be that guys, like Gavin Rich in his column realised the effect and importance of the way the Sharks adopted their game in similar fashion to what New Zealand did this year, has had us clutching at straws in the last couple of years with regards to the importance of such a player?
Of course some would say the law-changes has had an effect of how the game is played and officiated in this area, but then again, the so-called ‘fetchers’ we measured our players against in Richie McCaw and David Pocock (before him George Smith) was as effective, if not more effective, than what they have been before these law changes! Could it just perhaps be that we got it wrong?
I mentioned to Sharks supporter last night that if anything, I wish the Sharks would dominate South African rugby for the next 5 years just so we can get over the fascination of the role of a fetcher in rugby as a specific role or specifically assigned position within a team – if that happens, at least the loss of the past weekend would be worth it!
Dan Retief also ventured into the unknown in a column he wrote recently where he identified the strategy New Zealand seem to be using at the breakdown and for my money, he was not far off. In short it again re-affirmed that being proficient at the breakdown, has a hell of a lot more to do with the team’s strategy as a whole in this area, than one guy.
Does this mean the end of players like Brussow? Not in the least, in fact I would like to believe that since they would have this fetcher bogey of their backs they would even become more effective in playing towards the ball, which is, and has always been, the primary role of a forward flanker.
Maybe, just maybe the Sharks victory in the Currie Cup and the way they went about doing it and played the game in this area, will make other teams, and coaches wake up to the fact that rugby union and the all important area of the ruck in the modern game has more to do with total team strategy and commitment, than individual role definition.
Now can I get someone to fetch me a beer please?
(You can access the columns referred to in this piece by clicking on the highlighted sections)