These are testing times for Sharks fans, the Sharks’ coaching staff and the players themselves, but a degree of sympathy and patience is necessary from those fretting that the Sharks have not hit their straps in the Currie Cup.
And let’s not forget that the Sharks are top of the table, albeit by a solitary point and only after the early stage of a marathon that runs through to late October, writes Mike Greenaway on IOL.
Consider this loss of talent to the Springboks from the Super 14 side that made the semifinals: Francois Steyn, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, J P Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Ryan Kankowski, Bismarck du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira. In addition, AJ Venter has joined Western Province, and Frederic Michalak has been injured.
The loss of that core has ripped the heart out of the team, and then considerable salt has been rubbed into the wounds by an unfortunate injury crisis that has hit 10 players, most of them seniors.
John Plumtree’s squad has been heavily affected by the misfortune that has struck Bradley Barritt, B J Botha, Deon Carstens, Jean Deysel, Steven Sykes, Rory Kockott and Alistair Hargreaves.
That does not leave the coaching staff with a heck of a lot to work with, and the injuries to those experienced players means the semblance of continuity that Plumtree had hoped to have from Super 14 to the Currie Cup has disappeared in a whiff of Deep Heat.
The flip side is that Plumtree and Grant Bashford have been able to look at the next tier of players in match situations. They will have found out a heck of a lot about who is good enough to take the step up, and who is not.
Some of the club players who have been tested have failed, but others have shown promise.
Furthermore, for the top provinces the Currie Cup is now secondary to the Super 14, and is part of the preparation for the following year’s Super 14.
Two seasons ago, Dick Muir used two squads in the Currie Cup so that he could explore the depth in the province, and that consolidation of depth played some kind of a role when the Sharks went on to all but win the Super 14 title.
Plumtree is a big believer in bringing through and developing local talent, and that goes for coaching staff as well as players.
Another positive of the current situation is that the back-up squad to the Sharks next year, the Wildebeest, will be better because a number of their players will have had Currie Cup experience.
Also, the players who make up the Wildebeest train with the Sharks every Monday and Tuesday, and next season a 26-man Wildebeest squad will be announced for their Vodacom Cup campaign so that they can have rare continuity and stability.
In short, the injury problems besetting the Sharks have forced the coaching staff into a more of a “holding operation” than a team development exercise until they get the Boks back on September 1, or the existing players return to health.Tweet