Schalk factor key for WP

It might not be on the field because Vermeulen, Kolisi and Fourie are doing that business wonderfully, but Tank Lanning believes the “Schalk factor” to be a big one away from the field for WP.

I do not think Schalk Burger is playing particularly well right now. Would I pick him for the Currie Cup final at Newlands this Saturday? Damn right I would!

Burger is one of those unique “Team igniters” – A player that lifts other players just by being in the team environment – Worth more than their weight in gold to a coach.

WP skipper Deon Fourie has already spoken about the team wanting to win the Currie Cup this year for Burger and Jean de Villiers given that they missed last year’s win and have thus not had a chance to sip from the iconic piece of silverware, ever!

More music to a coach’s ears.

I spoke last week of the contracting policy and overall team environment being key to keeping players in a false Monopoly type economy that giggles at the pour cousin called the Rand, and part of that environment includes having players like Burger and De Villiers in the mix.

When players start saying things like “Playing for each other”, you have half the battle won … Especially in this professional era that, sadly, sees many a player looking out only for número uno. Rugby remains very much a team game that requires all 14 other players to do their job well in order for the 15th to shine. A simple draw and pass is a prime example of that … How often do you see a player go for the glory (and stuff it up) when a draw and pass would have guaranteed a try for the team, but scored by another player?

A scrum half who uses the good ball for himself instead of giving it to the backline? A hospital pass to a team mate instead of taking the tackle? A loosehead prop going for the big shove on his own ball when holding back a little would guarantee the right shoulder? A tight forward hanging around in the backline instead of doing the grunt work up from to secure good ball for the team?

All nightmare scenarios for a coach who’s primary aim is to get the 15 guys on the field to play as a team. That age old adage of the sum of the parts being greater than the individual parts rings absolutely true in rugby …

In a Q&A for SCRUM Magazine, I asked Nick Mallett what he would have done differently at the ’99 RWC. He said he would definitely have picked Gary Teichmann and kept him on as captain. At the time, he said, he did not realise how key Teichmann was to the balance of the side – more as a skipper and team igniter than as an actual player. And to his credit Mallett reckons he learnt from that, from then on making selections based not only on individual talent and skill, but also on team balance.

In the build up to the 2007 RWC, Luke Watson may well have been the best open side flank in the country, but Jake White did not select him because he thought the player would be detrimental to the team in general … These are calls that only the coach can make

And as a coach, you want the guys that not only listen at team meetings and training, but also nod, add their opinion, and generally just add to the team vibe …

So when you get the chance to have Schalk Burger – the epitome of a team igniter – in your Currie Cup squad, you accept that gift and run!