Jean de Villiers told a story than when Gainsford visited the family he found the De Villiers brothers kicking balls in the garden and asked the two of us what we want to do in future as to sports we said rugby. His answer was that then we must practice what real rugby means and mot waste time with kicking. However the comments of De Villiers on aging of players are in the case of this thread are more pertinent, De Villiers mentioned that at the age of 31 he had to train twice as hard than was necessary when he was 29 years olf.
On this site the issue of elderly players in team and individual sporting codes and basically those were in the main three points of view and those are –
* that experience is all that count in team selection and that performance is not of any consequence at all and that the older players are the better they perform;
* that performance is all that count and age has nothing to do with the issue of selection of players provided they follow the advice of De Villiers in that regard is applied by athletes; and
* the opinion that players over 30 years of age should automatically be replaced by younger players who are better than the aging players over 30.
Experience over the years in all codes of sport indicate that the second opinion is the one that should be the one applied in all cases.
The age factor has had some serious implications in performance of teams and individuals in all codes of sport. So lets look at some examples where aging players without performance requirements self-destruct in rugby, in cricket and in tennis - the latter two codes being of particular importance in this case.
The issue if selection of aging became an issue when Meyer started to persuade retired players to return to play for the Springboks with total disregard for performances – who when questioned on the issue made the classical remark that he knew about the capabilities of players proved by them in the past and that present performances has nothing to do with selection – the so-called Meyer doctrine.
The Meyer doctrine resulted in a total disregard of any team renewal program. By 2015 the program was a disaster that was the start of the destruction of Springbok rugby and became the norm under Coetzee. The coaching of Meyer and Coetzee both ended in a disaster for the teams they coached and both were effectively fired by SARU, However, it was not only their SA Coaching that ended in their firing by SARU - both Coetzee and Meyer were subsequently fired by the clubs where they coached for being totally incompetent and part of their problem was the Meyer doctrine.
The matter can best be illustrated by two 38 year-old players in the 2015 and 2019 WC squads – namely Matfeld in 2015 and Brits in 2019. After returning from retirement In 2014 on the encouragement of Meyer – Matfield was a total disaster and liability for the teams he played ion – the Bulls and the Springboks in 2014 and 2015 since he was never really match fit and and enver ecn tried to be. He was for instance one of the architects of the Japan disaster in the 2015 WC, Brits was te exact opposite. He was primarily be selected to deal with development of team spirit in the team and only used in two matches – in the 2019 against minions and in one where hew as catain he scored a try. His selection by Erasmus was based on the De Villiers advice n player slection anyway,
However, the Meyer doctrine has been disregarded by Erasmus and the second approach utlined above became the norm in Springbok selection.
By 2019 the Proteas team became a disaster and the performances in the 2019 WC was the worst ever since re-admission to international cricket in 1992. The main problem was that team renewal was extremely limited and only applied when older players either retired or retired and performances of players became so desperately that the selectors were forced into replacing them,
Some players like Amla and Steyn announced their retirement from cricket and after firing of the coach in 2019 after constant losses in international series and he was replaced by Boucher. The problem of team renewal became pertinent and even though most supporters felt that Boucher was the right man for the job – but he is now the same level of incompetence as his predecessor was.
In fact was that Boucher was much worse than his predecessor was. His norm for teams election was even a worse application of the Meyer doctrine and he effectively laid down a minimum age of 28 for selection of the squad. The younger players that was selected by coaches before he became coach were retained - eg Rabada, Ngidi, De Kock and Markram was retained by him and on this site the latter two were under constant attack by some members.
What was worse is that Boucjer regard the fact that existing players “own” there positions in the team and that they cannot be replaced even if they fail miserably in game after game, A typical example is Phehlukwayo, but the list of elderly and incompetent present “owners” turned the Protea team into the disaster area they are now. However, the cock-eyed approach of Boucher found support on this site by the same site members who supported the Meyer doctrine.
There can be no doubt that Federer, Nadal and Djokovic were the greatest rtennis players ever. So lets briefly look at what happened recently in their cases:-
* The now 41 year-old Federer after an injury in the Aussie Open in 2020 played no tennis for a year. He intended to use the Doha and Dubai series this year to make his return to playing competitive tennis - but was disgraced by nonentities and he left the scene and did not participate in the Dubai series at all. He declared that he will work towards perfecting his game on grass leading up to Wimbledon Grand Slam. In his case it is clear that he should rather retire from the professional game and that further participation may damage his great reputation.
* Nadal used the Covid 19 issue to reduce drastically the Championship tournaments in 2020, especially since his number 2 ranking was protected by new rules applicable to the ranking system introduced as a result of Covid 19 in 2020. The players would lose no points if they missed out on tournaments in 2020 and not lose the points they got in such tournaments in 2019. This was recne4tly ultered to reduction of 30% of points earned previously – but still provide a false picture of ther eal situation based on present performances – it in particular favour Federer, Nadala nd Djokovic. Some critics claim there is no ranking system at all in place. Back to Nadal though – after twining the French Grand Slam tournament in 2020 he never played in tennis tournaments until the Paris Master tournament in late October 2020. He was not successful and got nowhere in the final. Nadal then played in the 2020 Player Championships in 2020 – but did not get firther than the semi after being beaten by both Thiem and Medvedev. Thatw as followed by absemnce from competitive tennis until the Aussie Open where he never reached the semi’s. He then went into non-participation until the Monte Carlo masters – where he was the champion nine times and r missing playing in the semi’s only twice in the 16 years he played in. He was dismantled by Rublev yesterday and probably got the worst beating he ever experienced in his professional career – the best example of lack of match fitness being the case here.
Djokovic followed the same route followed by Nadal in 2020 and made a return to tournaments in the Vienna tournament in October 2020 – where he was disgraced by a player by the name of Sonego and then went into the Championship in London - where eh lost badly to Medvedev and surrendered against Thiem. However – unlike Nadal he did play in the World Cup series in Australia and gained valuable match fitness, which benefited him in the Aussie Grand Slam. After winning in that tournament Djokovic did not play in any tournaments until the Monte Carlo Masters. His performance was iffy in Round 2 against the 19 year-old Sinner and a disgraceful in the second match against of all players Evans,
Age is indeed a factor in team and player selection if the athletes concerned failed to ensure that they need to maintain match fitness in games and more importantly they fail to maintain fitness levels supporting adequate performances,
However, age on its own should not be a factor in team selection - performances are.