A strong Sharks squad has been announced for the 2008 Vodacom Super 14, and fans of the coastal side have plenty to be positive about for the season ahead judging by the manpower assembled in Durban.
With “Paddy Power”, AKA Epi Taione, the Tongan International who can play at loose forward, centre or wing and who was nominated as one of the five IRB World Cup players of the tournament, still set to join the franchise from Japan, the squad has a fairly settled look about it.
There are no surprises (unless you haven’t been near an internet connection for the past 3 months or so) and everywhere that the Sharks have suffered loss, they more than make up for with a new signing, or experience gained over the past year.
Take the loss of John Smit – Sharks and Springbok Captains – for instance. His leadership will be missed, but in Bismarck du Plessis and even Craig Burden (retreaded centre/wing), the hooker position is more than covered.
Butch James has followed the pound, but the man brought in to cover him is Frederic Michalak who has played 50 Tests for France – no mean feat and a more than able replacement. He may not be the physically imposing flyhalf that James is, but he certainly brings huge creativity to the backline.
No Monty? What about Stefan Terblanche or Frans Steyn. OK, they may not have the temperament of Monty, but they certainly can do the business.
Add Ruan Pienaar, Waylon Murray, Ryan Kankowski and JP Pietersen and you have amongst the most explosive and dangerous players in the tournament, while the likes of Brad Barritt, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller and the ever-green Johan Ackermann who will finally retire in March, provide strength and stability.
On the injury front, the Sharks are not in any great trouble, with long term injuries to Deon Carstens and Pat Cilliers set to be a thing of the past in the next 3-4 weeks.
The Sharks front row acts like a loose-forward unit and can be depended on to get the team over the gain line. The scrum was exceptional last year and one should expect more of the same.
Finally, don’t discount the coaching ability of Dick Muir and John Plumtree. This pair have developed into a work-class partnership working off the strengths of each other and complimenting in their own way what the other brings to the team.
The Sharks are an enigma when one reads the various media predictions. Ladbrokes have the Sharks in 4th place at odds of 9 to 1, and the media can’t make up their mind if they admire the Sharks, or feel they have to grudgingly give them their due.
For this wannabe journo and Sharks fan, I firmly believe they can go all the way. Time will tell but I think odds of 9 to 1 deserve a little flutter!
Sharks 2008 Super 14 squad:
Johan Ackermann, Skipper Badenhorst, Bradley Barritt, Nikolai Blignaut, Jacques Botes, BJ Botha, Craig Burden, Deon Carstens, Patric Cilliers, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Alistair Hargreaves, Robbie Harris, Adrian Jacobs Jody Jenneker, Ryan Kankowski, Rory Kockott, Kees Lensing, Scott Mathie, Dumisane Matyeshana, Charl McLeod, Henno Mentz, Frederic Michalak, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira , Johann Muller, Waylon Murray, Odwa Ndungane, Ruan Pienaar, JP Pietersen, Francois Steyn, Andries Strauss, Steven Sykes, Johan Snyman, Epi Taione, Stefan Terblanche, Albert van den Berg, AJ Venter, Frank Wagenstroom.Tweet