Tough decisions for Grobler on future of men’s pair

IT’S the morning after the night before at Henley Royal Regatta – and the hangover is very real for Jurgen Grobler.

BEATEN: Andy Triggs-Hodge and Peter Reed lost for the ninth time in succession against Hamish Murray and Eric Bobd at the Henley Royal Regatta (Action Images)

But rather than from sipping Pimms as is traditional on the banks of the River Thames in early July, the German will be sick on the sour taste of defeat.

Grobler is the rightly celebrated mastermind behind British rowing, having produced gold medal winning crews at the past five Olympic Games.

But, with two years until the Greatest Show on Earth sets up shop in London, the 63-year-old has seen his flagship crew not so much slip but be blown out of the water.

Andy Triggs-Hodge and Peter Reed, part of the triumphant coxless four with Tom James and Steve Williams in Beijing, were beaten ‘Easily’ by world champion pair Hamish Murray and Eric Bond on Sunday – their ninth successive defeat to the Kiwis.

It was humiliation on home water.

Grobler’s woes were compounded when hitherto unbeaten double of Matt Wells and Marcus Bateman stopped sculling, simply blowing up, in their final with Frenchmen Cedric Berrest and Julien Bahain.

Triggs-Hodge and Reed, now the standard bearers of British rowing, had a tough act to follow after the retirement of Sir Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent.

The duo stepped into their size 13s with ease when leading the four during the Beijing Olympiad – but, since being switched to the pair, rough water has followed and Grobler must act quickly if the golden generation is to be extended to 24 years.

The former East Germany coach will be judged on results at the Olympics not the head-to-head racing of Henley Royal Regatta but the alarm bells should be ringing.

“I’d be surprised if they didn’t stay in the pair for at least another race or two which takes us into early summer next year [2010],” four-time Olympic gold medallist Pinsent told Sportsbeat after last year’s World Championship defeat.

“If that isn’t dramatically different to what they did at the worlds, then you’re beginning to think ‘well – this isn’t working’.”

James Cracknell is another who believes they’ve had their chance –  “If they get beaten again and again then they won’t be in the pair,” he has previously said.

Time is up – the post-Olympic lull is over and, with the 2010 World Championships taking place in New Zealand in October, there is little chance of Triggs-Hodge and Reed overturning the deficit on their rivals.

The British squad travel to Lucerne this weekend for the final World Cup regatta of the season. Far too soon for any changes to be made but a dispirited Triggs-Hodge and Reed must quickly lick their wounds and show their mental strength to salvage pride.

Ice cool Grobler is not one to panic, though, nor has he shirked from making tough decisions in the past – Triggs-Hodge and Reed’s story almost mirrors that of Pinsent and Cracknell.

After success in the four at the Sydney Olympics, and following the retirement of Redgrave, Pinsent and Cracknell enjoyed two seasons of success in the pair before a disappointing 2003 season saw the duo join forces with Williams and Ed Coode to claim gold in Athens.

And Grobler will be hoping history is to repeat itself to rescue Triggs-Hodge and Reed’s Olympic campaign.