Sharks can’t keep Du Preez

Mike Greenaway

The Sharks have been rocked by a stand-off between the senior players and coach Robert du Preez over the latter’s preferential treatment of his struggling son at flyhalf at the cost of the exceptional Curwin Bosch.

It is a situation that is making it ever tougher for Du Preez to continue as coach and if the whispers from the corridors of power at Kings Park are to be believed, the change will come soon after the end of Super Rugby.

In short, Du Preez’s employers at the Sharks created a monster by not insisting on sensible selection parameters for a unique situation where the coach has three sons in his squad, and now the monster has to go.

It was former assistant coach Dick Muir that suggested a selection panel but nothing came of it when Du Preez’s insistence that his sons picked themselves on merit was allowed to go unchecked.

The selection panel did not happen and for a long time the Sharks got away with it because all three Du Preez players were indeed commanding starting places. But last year, Rob Jnr started showing signs of fatigue (he was completely overplayed, with no chances whatsoever going the way of Bosch at flyhalf), and then this year Du Preez has been in dreadful form (again seemingly heavily fatigued after playing for Sale Sharks in the SA off-season).

Matters came to a head after the Sharks lost heavily at home to the Jaguares and the Reds, with Du Preez a ghost of the player he had been for periods in 2018 and particularly when he played so well for Western Province.

The avalanche of stinging criticism on social media of both Robert Snr and Jnr was dismissed by the coach as “cockroach comments”, but he did relent and picked Bosch for the Sharks’ tour-opener against the Waratahs. The 21-year-old responded with a man-of-the-match, game-winning performance.

It was a grudge selection by the coach, as reflected by his insistence on bringing his son on at 10 early in the second half of every match Bosch has started, with the latter moving to fullback and the unfortunate Aphelele Fassi being relegated from that position to the bench.

Two weeks ago, before the Sharks’ home match against the Hurricanes, the flyhalf issue came to a head for a second time this season when coach Du Preez made clear his intention to recall Rob to the flyhalf starting spot, to the detriment of Bosch and Fassi. 

The leadership group in the squad strongly objected and the coach backed down. But the players did not have similar joy last week in Buenos Aries.

The big issue with the recall of Du Preez at flyhalf is that it had no basis. It was not as if he had been in such good form that he could no longer be ignored and at the same time Bosch had been shaky and thus warranted demotion.

We know Bosch misses the odd tackle but what he brings to the table in terms of dynamic attack and educated boot outweighs his shortcomings. He has largely been brilliant when he has played 10, his form contrasting starkly with that of Du Preez.

The coach’s insistence on making the change at flyhalf has incurred widespread criticism. SuperSport analysts, including Nick Mallett, Joel Stransky, Jean de Villiers and Odwa Ndungane have expressed their dismay, and not just at the ill treatment of Bosch.

The pawn in this disappointing business is Fassi, who is taken off the field when he is in full flight at fullback, surely damaging the youngster’s confidence.

The Board of the Sharks will surely have noticed that the mistreatment of Fassi and Bosch will also be construed in many quarters as anti-transformation.

In summary, this is what has been happening in the crucial positions of 10 and 15: Bosch gets moved away from the action after having commandingly directed play at flyhalf; Fassi, one of the Sharks’ best attacking players, gets moved to the bench; and a player struggling with confidence and form is thrust into the hot seat.

It makes no sense and leaves Sharks supporters asking: “Why? Why? Why?”

It also leaves the Board of the Sharks with no option but to sack the coach.

- Mike Greenaway

Let's chat

  • Johan

    I don’t think coach du Preez is deliberately choosing his son over Bosch, but I do feel that the media pressure caused this whole situation.

    A quick look at stats:
    Bosch has a 58% tackle success rate, averages 40.86 minutes per tackle and made only 21 tackles so far this
    Rob has a 81% tackle success rate, averages 15.01 minutes per tackle and as made 88 tackles so far this season.

    Yes, I know Rob has played more, that is why I added the averages.

    However on attack Bosch has 30 Defenders beaten, 17 Clean Breaks and 4 try assists vs
    Rob 10 Defenders beaten, 2 Clean Breaks and 2 try assists.

    Isn’t bad defense why Jantjies (67% completed, averages 12 min per tackle) get criticized so much?
    However everyone (in the media) is SCREAMING for Bosch to be picked, maybe it is because of his hair…

    The above stats clearly shows why the coach chooses Bosch at fullback, it gives him more space and time to do his attacking thing, and keeps a good defending flyhalf at 10. I do feel that the two should switch during the game depending on the situation…

    The Sharks’ major strength this year has been their defense, and the coach is only prioritizing this aspect of their game.

    • Whynger

      I have no preference for either player, but Bosch’s defense, or lack of it, does stand out. The way he just didn’t arrive at the ball when Boffelli took a high kick in front of him last week, was almost comical. It is amazing how a player who is so committed on the attack (he definitely does not look scared when carrying the ball), so obviously and consciously avoids having to make any contact on the defense. Pity.

      • Barry

        Whynger, a bit disappointed with your post – you usually have sensible stuff to offer!

        Seems you and Johan couldn’t resist a cheap shot at Bosch. Boyo thanks for clarity on the “comical” incident.

        Bosch has missed 15 tackles in 15 rounds of rugby, that’s a little over one missed tackle per game! Most international coaches would give that a thumbs up. Willemse, your homie, has played less time and missed 14, Jean-Luc 18, even our national hero PSDT has missed 14. Then there is Elton who’s missed 42 – our number two national 10, and Andries Coetzee, who had a good season has missed 12 – 3 less than Bosch.

        Respects Gents, take your Provincial smoke elsewhere!

        • Whynger

          Cherry picking stats again Barry. I am not a Du Preez fan and I am not rooting for Rob. It is neither here nor there who they play. However, It is clear that Bosch does not like to tackle. Don’t blame him, he is not a big man. I may be wrong about the incident I cited, but that does not change my perception of the player.

          Further on you complain about Johan comparing him to a flyhalf, but your cherry-picked stat does hide the fact that Willemse (in the same comment from Johan – and he plays fullback doesn’t he?) makes far more tackles per game and has a much higher completion rate than Bosch. According to his stats, Bosch makes two tackles per 80 minutes. And he had a couple of outings at flyhalf. The only way to achieve that low a tackle count, is to actively avoid making them. I am sorry. He is a talented, exciting flyhalf, but he can’t defend to save his life. By the way, I am not a Willemse fan and like Bosch, he should play flyhalf. Teaching him how to improve his tackle success, will not be that great a challenge. At least he puts himself in positions where he can attempt a tackle.

          • Barry

            Cherry picking indeed – I’ve giving comparative stats of other players in similar positions – the problem with this is that it does not support your view and puts Bosch’s performance in perspective. The issue that neither of you can get away from is that he missed one tackle per match and those stats look pretty good compared to other top rated players in the competition!

            I see you’ve moved away from stats now to perception, because quite simply the stats are not supporting your view and the incident you cited was in fact another player. Respect, if you’re going to drub a player, at least make sure you get the right chap!

        • Johan

          Barry, you cannot just mention the total numbers, that not how stats work.

          Willemse is tackling at 78%, 17.6 min per tackle
          PSDT 85%, 5.71min
          Jean-Luc du plessis 82%, 8.72min…

          He missed one per game, correct, he also only made 21 (58%) and, as I said, he averages 40.86 minutes per tackle. He is clearly not doing his part defensively, or am I wrong?

          You are aslo right, Elton missed 42, but he has made 101 (67%), averaging a completed tackle every 12 minutes. It is not good enough, but at least he is trying. A tackle every 12 min vs 40.86 min…

          Maybe the Provincial smoke is plaguing you?
          He is CLEARLY not up to standard

          Boeboes btw, is better in almost every way, and never gets a mention in the media:
          Is tackling at 72%, and averages 28min per tackle…
          Also beaten 35 defenders (vs 30)
          10 clean breaks (vs 17)
          20 offloads (vs 8)
          Won 3 TOs (vs 0)
          2 bad passes (vs 3)
          Scored 3 tries (vs 2)
          951min vs 858 min

          • Barry

            No Johan percentages more often than not cover up the detail- people use percentages to support a story when the quantum wont do it for them. Most are pretty clear on one missed tackle per game. It give an indication if there is a big problem or a small one. No one is interested in tackle minutes Johan! Made the tackle didn’t make the tackle!

            Bosch is a small guy relative to Pro Rugby, so he will never be a dominant tackler, but on balance he is a huge asset.

            No idea who Boeboes is – but it does confirm to me that your post was not about Du Preez and his management style but rather a cheap shot at trying to undermine Bosch!

      • Boyo

        That was actually Rob. Bosch was in the line

    • Barry

      Nice try Johan, I’m sure Rob will appreciate the attempt. You can not compare stats of a full back with that of a fly half, but I’m sure you know that. There is heavy traffic in the ten channel, but it is at close quarters and your success rate is thus higher. As you go wider your success rate decreases!

      The Sharks attack is 24% down on last year – same players, so you’d have a strong defensive 10 in place to fix their attack problem would you?

      Jantjies was dropped because of internal disciplinary issues and I dare say lack of form. He played virtually every game in 2018 and had the worst tackle stats of the competition – his defense issues are not new!

      In my view, the ten issue is one of the smaller issues, there are a whole string of other niggles that cumulatively make his tenure entirely unworkable!

      In brief, Du Preez must go or the fans will. Your call Sharks board?

      • John Comyn

        Tend to agree with you Barry. It was always a recipe for disaster and was going to come to a head at some point. Having 3 kids in a side as a coach, in any sport at any level, is going to end badly. The biggest problem with the Sharks is inconsistency. It’s the coach’s responsibility to get his side up for every game, more especially home games. This is the big difference between RDP, Pote and Fleck versus the Lions coaching setup. They are almost always up for the challenge and give their best. I for one am glad Bosch is not playing this weekend purely as a Stormers supporter. Together with him and other injuries to Sharks players the playing field is has been leveled a bit.

        • Jay

          To be fair though, I do feel the twins were justified selections. Their stats do paint a picture of certain bok futures but Rob Jr however, needs to play some Currie cup rugby to regain the form he had at Province.

        • Barry

          Thanks John agreed. I suspect players are GV and with the injuries (if that’s what they are) plus home ground advantage, I suspect an easy win for Province!

          One needs to be mindful that Sharks are a bit dangerous with backs to wall, so outside chance of an upset!

          Good luck!

  • Herman

    Set the Bosch / RdP jnr debate aside, Senior should be sacked because he is an incompetent coach, full stop. Continuity he has had with his team for three years now and they still lie fourth last on the try tally log. The backline still doesn’t function properly or with any skill or vision most of the time. They would of course pick the Lions game to show that they can do it (lol) but then again the Lions don’t tackle ( too many lighties at that time ) so maybe they can only play expansively when no one tackles them.

    RdP’s problem is his game plan. Instead of encouraging his talented backline to express themselves they play to a preordained safety first strategy to limit errors. Funnily enough their off load game is pretty good but they keep it to a minimum. Yeah I’d better mention it here, they do play Dom Krag 101.

    Not many coaches can master the high octane expansive game with all it’s skills variations so it’s understandable why they opt for risk free stuff. Trouble is it gets you nowhere. Last year his team sneaked into the playoffs, lose on Saturday and it’s curtains for them. Rdp and Fleck last of the dom krag coaches, will they finally be put out to pasture ? Who knows in this crazy season of ours. Cheers.

  • Nick

    Can’t get into RDP’s head and say whether he is biased towards his sons selection wise or not. Who knows. If that is ACTUALLY happening, then the Sharks are truly in a tight spot. Jeez, these pro coaches earn a lot and at the least should represent the union in a professional manner.

    This article suggests the PLAYERS are actually raising this. Pretty damning.

    I think at the heart of it is an attitude exuded by the coach in interviews. Very defensive, know it all sort of attitude. Aggressively confrontational with the media who ultimately promote the game and are entitled to ask questions. Calling people Cockroaches must be a Durban thing, but it’s pretty full on is’nt it?

    • Barry

      Spot on Nick, nobody in public office gets to call their complaining customers “cockroaches” and gets away with it. The disappointment is that their Board did not recant the statement and many of the other issues should have been addressed by them before now. It took Curwin Bosch to open negotiations with a Province before he was, all of a sudden, given a chance at 10!!

      On the player issue, have a look at this weeks injury list – it is a time when a bit of pain needs to be endured – they’re in with a shot at the play-offs – but half have checked in ill!! If that’s not a passive revolt, I am not sure what is!

  • Barry

    A thought must surely go out to the three sons. They are all very talented players. They don’t deserve to be caught up in this nonsense, they have done nothing wrong!

  • Dean Bright

    Who are the potential candidates?

    • Chris Mouton

      I’d like to lure Dawie Theron back from the wilderness…

    • Jay

      Would love to see what a coach like Robbie Deans could do with this squad. Other than that, seeing the spark he has created at other franchises, would not mind a stint by John Mitchell. If you have to look local, perhaps Dick Muir could take over the reins until a permanent replacement could be found?

      • Dean Bright

        Robbie Deans would be a good selection. John Mitchell, he never sticks around long enough and he recently extended his contract with the RFU.

  • John Williams

    Just to change the subject— does a player not always try to catch a ball when it becomes available? This business of deliberately knocking down the ball ( according to the ref), having a penalty awarded & then also yellow-carded is overkill. Surely the yellow-carding penalty should be rescinded!

  • Jay

    Very true but look how the teams perform AFTER he has left

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