The results of the Sharks XV (formerly known as the Wildebeest) so often slip under the local rugby radar, but this season, under a new name and new coaching team, the youngsters in black and white are looking likely to flourish.
New head coach, Sean Everitt, who last year worked as the Sharks’ skills coach during their successful Currie Cup campaign, says he is mighty pleased with what he has seen so far from his well-balanced squad, according to Craig Lewis of IOL.
“What’s great about our team is that we’ve got a good mixture of senior players, who have an absolutely wonderful attitude, and some really talented juniors who are keen to impress. Everyone has worked out that there will be a couple of spaces available in the Sharks side come the Currie Cup as several players will be on Springbok duty, so they’re not only playing for the Sharks XV but for a Currie Cup spot.”
Sharks stalwart Andries Strauss is one of the seniors in the side and has taken up the captaincy reins.
“Andries has just been amazing with the captaincy,” Everitt said. “He’s really helped the youngsters and between him, myself, and the management, I think we’ve got a good vibe going.”
The Sharks XV are unbeaten so far this season, having accounted for the Boland Cavaliers, the Free State Cheetahs and the SWD Eagles this past weekend, and as a result, they top the South Section log.
Everitt said a number of players had shown glimpses of great form during the early stages of the season.
“Monty Dumond has been really good at fullback. We’re doing a lot of kicking in our strategies and his accurate boot has really helped.
“Wings Lwazi Mvovo and Chris Jordaan have come on in leaps and bounds, with both of them having good Currie Cup experience under their belts last year. Scrumhalf Charl McLeod has been one of the outstanding players in the backline; Wiehahn Herbst, Nolan Clark and Craig Burden have also done well while another exciting prospect is loose forward Nick Claasen. All in all, though, everyone has contributed and that’s what it’s all about. It’s a team effort.”
However, as Everitt explained, it wasn’t all plain sailing during the pre-season.
“It was a bit difficult because obviously John Plumtree was working with a big squad before the Super 14 and a lot of those players who were eventually cut from his squad only joined us in time for just three practices before our first game. We were doing similar things in our training, though, so that helped us a lot and when we did eventually get our final squad together, it all came along smoothly.”
Unfortunately for the Sharks XV, they have lost two of their top players in recent times, with flanker Justin Downey and then lock Johann Snyman being called up to the Sharks team after Jean Deysel and Alistair Hargreaves suffered tour-ending injuries.
“Obviously we don’t like losing players of that calibre but it also opens the door for others,” Everitt said. “Jandre Marais, who was in the U19 side last year, came in for Snyman and filled those boots really well. We are always going to miss someone like Justin as well but there are always players who are ready to fill in.”
The Vodacom Cup is broken up into a North and South Section with the top four teams from each seven-side section ultimately going through to play cross-section quarterfinals and semifinals.
Looking ahead, Everitt outlined some of their plans for the season.
“We’re just going to be taking it one game at a time but at this stage we’re on course for a quarterfinal berth. Though, what we want to do is secure a home quarterfinal so we can follow the Sharks when they’re at home.
“However, it will be unrealistic for us at the beginning of the season to say we are going to make the knockout stages and win the tournament.
“The Vodacom Cup is in its eleventh year and Natal haven’t won the tournament as such or achieved the results we would have wanted to over the last few years. So we are just looking to be positive and grow each game and then see where we end up.”
So who were the real danger teams in the other side of the draw?
“Well it looks as if the Griquas are likely to qualify and you wouldn’t want to play them away. The Pumas, Leopards and the Bulls are also up there. For now though, we aren’t getting too far ahead of ourselves, and are just looking at each game on its merits.”
Everitt added that their early-season preparation had also been somewhat aided by the fact the Sharks headed on their Super 14 tour early on in their campaign.
“That has left us to our own devices and we were able to settle on a team. The aim of the Vodacom Cup team is that we remain as competitive as possible but also to develop players for the Sharks team.”
And what of the new name?
“What the name change has done is just to make the guys feel a little bit more professional. It’s perhaps just a mind-set, but I think it’s working out positively to be playing under the Sharks logo.”Tweet