Coaches will often tell you that experience is invaluable in the world of sport. They’re not wrong.
You need the veterans to win World Cups or big games - they have the know-how to get you over the line when things get tough. Or so they say.
But what if you are experienced in doing things the wrong way, or in a way that is simply not getting the desired results?
Evidence of this was visible when the Stormers fielded a much younger side than on their previous matches when they played the Rebels over the weekend.
They lost their first three matches.
Then with experienced stars such as captain Siya Kolisi, SA Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth back home, the team finally clicked into gear and scored a total of five tries - on the road.
Scoring tries are something the team just couldn’t do when the old guard was still around.
So why then did they play with the sort of freedom that gave them the reward when the “stars” weren’t there?
I’ve got a theory and according to it, the rookies in the team simply played with freedom - without someone keeping tabs on them - and played for the enjoyment of the game.
This, and the will to win and to prove a point.
Playing an expansive game comes naturally to the younger generation - they weren’t necessarily part of the big transition from a game based on physical forwards - and grew up really PLAYING rugby.
As a result, they wouldn’t have had the same growing pains in trying to adjust to the “new world” as the old guard has.
To them, playing this sort of game comes naturally - it’s what they do.
Players such as Jaco Coetzee, Kobus van Dyk, Herschel Jantjies and a number of other rookies wanted to prove a point - evidence of this can be found in the 174 tackles they made to the 59 made by the opposition.
These are guys that have done well in the Currie Cup over the last few years, but when the “experience” comes back, they are sidelined.
The game plan then, too, changes to accommodate the guys who are experienced in what they do.
Unfortunately, what they do is dated and, in truth, these rookies have more experience in playing a game that is open and expansive.
I am not saying discard Kolisi, Du Toit and Etzebeth - their experience is invaluable (contradictory I know).
But instead of getting them to make the decisions as to how the team must implement the plans, get them focused on their own game.
Give them the freedom to express the undoubted talent we know they have.
Before he was tasked with being a captain and playing in a position he clearly isn’t comfortable with, Kolisi was one of the best No.7s in our country - if not the best.
Give him the freedom to play his game and play in that position - only then will you see him back to his best again.
Allow Du Toit and Etzebeth to do what they do best. Don’t expect Pieter-Steph to do a Sonny Bill special, instead work his ball-carrying experience into the pattern and allow the others to run freely.
It boils down to the management of these players.
Recognise the strengths, don’t just fall back on the experience, and play to those strengths.
I, for one, am excited to see how the Stormers will juggle the experience and youth in their squad.
With rumours of a mass exodus in South African rugby happening at the end of the season - predominantly the more experienced stars - as well as coach Robbie Fleck finishing his tenure, is it not time to start planning for next year already?
That means giving these youngsters more opportunities in Super Rugby while allowing the experienced stars to rest.
Not only will this serve the Stormers well, but with the South African Rugby Union wanting their players to rest, they can get enough recovery time before the World Cup starts in Japan in September.
Besides, when that tournament comes around, the guys with the experience will have to use all of that to play the sort of game that is more suited to what they have experience in.