Tank Lanning

Lions show SARU the way

2011-10-31 07:23
Tank Lanning
Tank Lanning

Which of the victorious Lions Currie Cup side would be picked to play in a Bok Test team to play against New Zealand next week? Sure it would depend on who the coach was, but there would be no riots on Joburg if not a single player out of the match 22 were selected!

Yet they hammered the Bok filled Sharks 42-16 in the most emphatic Absa Currie Cup final victory since 1980 at the Coke Tin on Saturday ...

As said yesterday on my Front Row Grunt blog, it’s a great Currie Cup story that will add to the folklore of this magnificent tournament … The Lions, and coach John Mitchell deserve all the credit that comes their way. I also suggested that South Africa should learn the necessary lessons from this tale …

So what are these lessons?

The returning Rugby World Cup Springboks should probably not have played in the Currie Cup this year ... Apart from not exactly helping Western Province or the Sharks causes, it changed the character of the tournament - and more importantly speaks to the over reliance on big name players, and the fear SA coaches have of working with the next level of talent.

It may be sad, but the Currie Cup will survive without the Springboks. And it has to because next year's extended Super Rugby tournament, incoming tour, new Four Nations tournament and End of Year Bok tour means that the Boks will not play a single Currie Cup game ...

So most Currie Cup coaches need to accept that they will not be working with many of their Super Rugby players, and use the opportunity to develop the next tier of talent.

The implementation of central contracting of players by SARU, as is done in New Zealand, would see a better spread of players round the country, and a fairer "Downsizing" of squads during the Currie Cup.

It was forced on him given his lack of returning Boks, but John Mitchell treated the Lions side as his finished product that just needed a little polishing, while Alister Coetzee and John Plumtree often spoke of the missing players. Treat players like second class citizens and they will play like second class citizens ...

Develop your own talent! WP buying in Gerhardt van den Heever and Joe Pietersen, and keeping Bryan Habana while losing the likes of Francois Hougaard, Josh Strauss, Johann Sadie, JJ Engelbrecht and Tim Whitehead is beyond unacceptable. The Lions saying cheers to Jano Vermaak and having faith in Michael Bondesio is the way forward.

If players are selected, managed and coached well, South African teams can play the more attacking ball in hand modern style of rugby. If we carry on coaching the same way, we will carry on playing the same way. But if we take the time to coach players to pass to their right, and aim for gaps rather than people, then look to offload rather than go to ground, we can play a better brand of rugby ...

The Currie Cup is a very different animal to Super Rugby, and the Lions will need to prove they can carry this form into the international arena next February, but SARU will have to look elsewhere for a side to cull in order to make space for their beloved EP Kings.

Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, 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.

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