Robbie Deans is showing lots of guts

Written by leon. Posted in Opinion

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Published on August 19, 2011 with No Comments

Here in South Africa we generally have a problem with making the hard decisions. We see it in politics, at work and definitely in sport. If a sport star does something spectacular or wins big they generally become untouchable and never get dropped. It’s something we see in all our major codes and I don’t know if it’s a fear for experimenting and losing, too much respect for the big names or just incompetence of selectors and coaches to bring in new talent.

In cricket we had examples like Herschelle Gibbs and Mark Boucher and our current rugby squad that will go to the World Cup is mostly made up of the class of 2007.

In that breath you have to give credit to Australian Rugby coach Robbie Deans and the ARU to make those hard calls. Firstly Deans has made wholesale changes to his Wallaby World Cup squad if you compare it to 2007. Only 8 of the 30 players have survived and will be returning to the global spectacle. Some of the 2007 players have been lost to retirement and to European clubs, but he has shown a willingness to axe a few big names and has the ability to make those hard calls. In SA, an out of form Matt Giteau, Phil Waugh and Stirling Mortlock would’ve had a free pass to the World Cup, no matter how bad they were playing. On top of it all, he went and changed his captain with only weeks to go. Rocky Elsom has been struggling with form and Deans obviously feels he does not deserve his place in the starting XV. Clearly that is his first criteria for a captain. James Horwill who has had an amazing season captaining the Super 15 champions Reds will take over the leading role as he is sure of a starting place.

Then also the ARU has shown belief in Deans by extending his contract for two years right before the World Cup. They believe in his plan and are showing him their full support no matter what happens at the World Cup. In SA, we effectively fired a coach after winning a world cup because he didn’t always agree with the administrators.

Compare all of this with the South African team, which by current indications, will have up to 18 players returning to the world cup. If you count Ricky Januarie and Juan Smith (that both had the guts to remove themselves, because the coach was not able to make that call) we could’ve had 20. Out of last week’s (and likely world cup) starting XV only Beast, Brussow and Spies (he was in the picture but had that “life threatening” disease in 2007…) was not at the 2007 cup. Our captain issue has been discussed extensively and everyone knows he is not the best in-form hooker in the country.

Time will tell which approach works best. Young, in-form talent or maturity and experience? On current showings you have to say smart money is on Deans to walk away with the broader smile and bigger bonus. Still in a World Cup setting with all that pressure, there must be merit in choosing a team with over 800 combined caps.

Surviving Australian Players from 2007 to 2011:

Stephen Moore, Nathan Sharpe, Dan Vickerman, Rocky Elsom, Wycliff Palu, Berrick Barnes, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Drew Mitchell

Likely Surviving South African Players from 2007 to 2011:

Bismarck du Plessis, John Smith, Jannie du Plessis, CJ van der Linde, Guthro Steenkamp, Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield, Danie Rossouw, Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar, Butch James, Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Wynand Olivier, Francois Steyn, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen.

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