What difference a proper coach makes. Not to take anything away from Charles Louw and Steve Atherton, who did their best with the Wildebeest last year, but this year’s Sharks XV are clearly a different set-up.
Sean Everitt is a seasoned club coach, accustomed to success with College Rovers and a stint as skills coach with the Sharks Currie Cup team last year has only improved his abilities. He has a strong squad – a core group of players that he knows and trusts from Rovers and the Sharks squad and the results to date are pretty remarkable. For too many years now we have seen Natal teams in the Vodacom Cup performing way below the potential that their plethora of upcoming stars show. This year’s batch, although weaker on paper than last year’s squad, are certainly doing their talking where it counts.
Not only are they actually winning games – unbeaten after four rounds and still alone at the top of the South Section log – they are building some awesome continuity which can only bode well for the Currie Cup. When you have a reserve squad that is playing well and winning, it makes it so much easier promote players from that environment into the first side when necessary. Expect the Sharks XV to provide the bulk of this year’s Currie Cup squad while the Sharks’ Springbok troop is unavailable.
There’s no shortage of front-row talent, which is nice to see, even without the unfortunate Pat Cilliers in the mix. Wiehahn Herbst is a youngster with an impeccable age-group Springbok pedigree and he will no doubt be pressed into service in the Sharks number 3 jersey in this year’s Currie Cup, should Jannie du Plessis be called up to the Bok squad. Barra Mthethwa is always around too, while there are two relative newcomers to the prop scene in Sabs Nhlapo (a former age-group lock) and Sphe Mayaba. The latter has recently returned from the UK, where he played for the Sales Sharks A team. Young locks abound as well, with Nolan Clark and Juandre Marais performing well. Mike Rhodes and Warren Whiteley are both ready to take the step up too, while former Lions age-group representative Nick Claasen seems to be going well at open-side flank.
Most encouragingly, though, it would appear as though Charl McLeod and Len Olivier really are taking these games by the scruff of the neck and marshalling the troops around them. The outside backs are scoring tries and it seems, more often that not, that it’s creative play from the halves setting up these scores. See where I’m going with this one?
The Sharks XV have two more round-robin games to play – away to the Border Bulldogs and at home to the Mighty Elephants. Their aim right now must surely be to end the season in top spot and set up a potentially mouth-watering clash with the current Vodacom Cup champions, the Blue Bulls, in the final.Tweet