When flying to Joburg or Cape Town, do you buy a ticket or build a plane?
Simple answer if you fly once a month. Slightly more complex if you fly every day. And vastly more complex if you actually own an airline.
When needing to win a Super Rugby title, do you buy in Vincent Koch or develop Steven Kitshoff? The former developed by someone else and coming in at a cost. The latter developed by you, and now buggering off to make money off those skills in France?
WP come in for a lot of stick re losing players. Think Francois Hougaard, Handre Pollard, Willie le Roux, Thomas du Toit, Tim Swiel and Johann Sadie. Yet in their Academy and Institute, they have one of the best player development systems in the world!
One only has space for 23 players each week. Loyalty seems to be something you get only from a dog in today’s professional era. So is it really worth spending all that money on player development and retention? Why not just buy what you need at the time?
I’ll tell you why. Buying in players gives you the Sharks. Developing players gives you the Lions.
A cursory glance at a recent Sharks match 23 revealed that only 5 players, Pat Lambie, Marcel Coetzee, Fred Zeilinga, Waylon Murray, and Kyle Cooper were schooled in the region. Their solution to losing Willem Alberts? Signing ex-Bulls and current Waratahs flank, Jacques Potgieter.
Yes it is a professional game, and of course you can now buy a team, but money does not grow on trees, and there is still a lot to be said for a team and province culture that gets developed from the bottom up.
Hence Lions coach Johan Ackermann making the call to develop their talent from within instead of paying out millions for marquee players. Players are then given the assurance that they are backed in the system as a young player. Through trusting their talent conveyor belt, they now have eight or nine players who were not on Heyneke Meyer’s radar a year ago, who could play for the Springboks.
In a fully professional era, it’s pretty damn awesome to see so called “old fashioned” values like playing for the jersey and your team-mates, together with an incredible team spirit, playing out successfully between the white lines.
In a recent edition of Vodacom’s “Think Tank” I was asked to pick my form XV of the tournament thus far, and took a little stick for not picking a single Lions player. Rightfully so perhaps, but what I did not get to say was that the next best player in almost every position would be a Lions player.
None of Ruan Combrinck, Harold Vorster, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Faf de Klerk, Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Julian Redelinghuys, Ruan Dreyer, Akker van der Merwe, Schalk van der Merwe, or Jacques van Rooyen would let a Bok side down!
So apart from the continuity allowed via not having to rest the Bok players this year, they also have no big egos to manage (something definitely bothering Gary Gold at the moment). And through backing the players in their system, not overly complicating the coaching structure or on filed game plan, they have built a culture that everyone buys into.
Something that is much more difficult to implement when buying players in from all over the show.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt.Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.