The true test of Sean Everitt’s man-management skills will come this week as he looks to integrate a host of returning players into his already-successful Sharks XV.
The former Rovers coach has had it pretty easy up to now, with the Sharks squad on tour. He’s had a settled group of players from which to pick his team and has had the luxury of consistency in key positions. They say that the key to a successful team is continuity along the main axis – hooker, number 8, scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback. Apart from week 1, where Dylan Rutherford played at hooker and week four, where Chris Jordaan had to take over from Monty Dumond at fullback, Everitt has played the same payers in each of these positions over four rounds – in fact, the average number of changes to the starting XV has been under 2 each week. That’s pretty impressive and presumably has a lot to do with the team’s good form.
The Sharks are back from tour, though and a number of fringe players are set to return to the Sharks XV squad, having spent a month carrying tackle bags on tour. Amongst the forward, Skipper Badenhorst, Joe Snyman and (somewhat surprisingly) Justin Downey will all be back with the Sharks XV squad this week, while it appears that Pat Cilliers might finally be ready to play again after injuring his knee for the umpteenth time in pre-season training. The backs should be a little less disrupted, although rumour has it that Charl McLeod will be rewarded for his good Vodacom Cup form to date and should swap places with Ross Cronjé. Last week’s skipper, McLeod’s loss will not be as keenly felt, as regular captain Andries Strauss is apparently fit to play again.
It’s not good news for a number of the guys who have done sterling work coming off the bench for the Sharks XV. Sabelo Nhlapo, Nqubeko Zulu and Juandré Marais are unlikely to be in the mix this week, while Sphe Mayaba, a late replacement for Barra Mthethwa last week, will presumably also return to the North Coast. Among the backs, the return of Strauss will mean it’s a club game for one of Guy Cronjé or Danie Dames, with the former most likely to miss out.
Everitt’s most important task this week will be to manage the expectations of all the guys in the squad and try to retain the core of what has worked so well. The last thing he needs now is for a glory-boy culture to emerge and derail the hard work that has been put in so far.
Possible Sharks XV:
1 Barra Mthethwa, 2 Craig Burden, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 4 Johan Snyman, 5 Nolan Clark, 6 Justin Downey, 7 Michael Rhodes, 8 Warren Whiteley, 9 Ross Cronjé, 10 Len Olivier, 11 Carl Bezuidenhout, 12 Andries Strauss (capt), 13 Ian Adendorff, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 15 Chris Jordaan
16 Skipper Badenhorst, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Luvoyiso Lusaseni, 19 Neil de Bruyn, 20 Andrew Borgen, 21 Danie Dames