The Vodacom Cup kicks off on Friday night and the Sharks XV (formerly known as the Wildebeest) will travel down to Wellington to face the Boland Cavaliers in a tricky away fixture.
Sean Everitt’s team has been building up momentum slowly over the last few weeks, starting off with an internal game against the Sharks Super 14 squad and then following that up with a 40-10 win over Border in a warmup match that saw loose forward Warren Whitely and flyhalf Guy Cronje each score a brace of tries. The team played against an Academy selection in the main curtain raiser to last weekend’s Super 14 game in Durban and again impressed, winning by 40 points to 17.
Trying to piece together what the side is going to look like is a tricky affair. There are some names we can definitely pencil in; those who are in the wider Sharks Super 14 training squad, but have missed out on selection for the tour. Justin Downey will be there, leading the loose forward charge. Craig Burden should be the starting hooker and Joe Snyman must certainly be amongst the locks. Nikolai Blignaut will be in the frame, as always and young Barra Mthethwa and Warren Whiteley are sure to figure prominently as well. The squad listing on SA Rugby includes a few other reasonably familiar names. Props Dave Hawksworth and Wiehann Herbst both played against Pumas earlier in the season, as did utility front ranker Frik Venter. Nolan Clarke and Sabelo Nhlapo are additional lock options, along with big Mike Rhodes, who can also play in the back row. Nicolaas Claasen’s is a name I don’t recognise. He’s apparently also a loose forward, as is Ian Adendorff, although the latter, a Bok sevens player, seems likely to be utilised in the centres this year.
Amongst the backs, Andries Strauss, the forgotten man of Sharks rugby, will get another season of Vodacom Cup under his belt. He’ll be a fixture at inside centre and must surely also be a shoo-in for team captain, given his experience. Len Olivier and Monty Dumond will slug it out over who plays flyahlf and who covers fullback, while Charl McLoed and Neil de Bruyn are the scrumhalf options. Currie Cup wingers Chris Jordaan, Lwazi Mvovo and Wes Bodmer will provide the pace out wide. Again according to SARugby, Carl Bezuidenhout (remember him?) will also be in the mix.
It looks a pretty good squad, with a smattering of real talent to complement the youngsters. Let’s hope the core of the squad remains settled this year and not disrupted by too many Super 14 call-ups. We’ll keep you updated as and when the official lineup is announcedTweet