A new season, a new coach, a settled squad and (finally) a new name! That’s right, ladies and gents, the KZNRU are ready to launch a serious assault on the 2009 Vodacom Cup and you’ve got to back them to do the business next year.
When the Vodacom Cup started back in 1996, the Union took a pretty firm stance, based on the fact that they felt whatever team they could field was bound to be at a disadvantage. With the top four provincial sides competing in the Super 12 and everyone else playing Vodacom Cup, there was no way that they felt they could field a competitive team and they decided not to cheapen the brand or jersey by competing as the Sharks. Senior caps were not awarded and the Wildebeest have remained a bit of an unloved bastardisation ever since.
I’ve written a number of pieces about this over the past year. There has been a definite surge in the level of interest around the ‘Beeste in recent years, particularly after they came so close to winning the Vodacom Cup in 2006. Sharks fans, desperate to see their heroes in action and to catch a glimpse of the next generation of talent, have flocked to support the men in white and black and the Union has now, finally, decided to bring them back into the fold proper.
In 2009, the once Wildebeest will play in the Vodacom Cup as the Sharks XV, under the tutelage of former Rovers head coach Sean Everitt. You can read Mike Marnewick’s interview with Everitt on Sharksrugby, where the Sharks assistant coach for the 2008 Currie Cup explains some of the changes.
Of particular interest and importance is the fact that the Sharks XV will operate as an independent squad, drawn from the Sharks High Performance squad – in particular, those members of the extended training squad who don’t make the Super 14 cut this year. In previous years, the Wildebeest team has been little more than a ragtag bunch, picked the night before each game, based on whoever was not going to be in the Sharks 22 that weekend. Next year, there will be a settled squad of “next generation” players and teh coaching staff will aim for continuity, as well as bringing through the next generation of talent in time for the 2009 Currie Cup.
Expect the coaching team of Everitt, Ryan Strudwick and Ettienne Fynn to build on their strong Rovers links and establish a team based on the core of players who contested the final of the National Club Champs this year. The bulk of that team went on to play at the Malaysia Tens in November as the KZN Duikers and stalwarts like Wes Bodmer, Justin Downey, Mike Rhodes and Jacques Potgieter should figure prominently. Add recent imports Len Olivier and Lionel Cornelius to the mix, together with some promising age group talent like centre Luzuko Vulindlu and the irrepressible Cronje twins and you suddenly have the makings of a very strong squad indeed.
All the best, Sean and the team! The Sharks XV can be assured of our unwavering support during the 2009 Vodacom Cup. Bring it home.Tweet