Sharks coach John Plumtree admits that this year, as in previous years, the initial challenge that awaits his team is to come through the early stages of the Absa Currie Cup relatively unscathed.
Michael Marnewick reports for the official Sharks website, www.sharksrugby.co.za.
They did so last year: built up a head of steam and then swept all opposition away in the latter stages of the tournament as they ran out worthy champions, and again this year will be looking to bring a number of youngsters to the fore.
“That’s pretty much the Currie Cup for us,” he explains. “We’ve lost so many players to the Boks that obviously there are going to be a lot of young guys coming through. We have both Cronje brothers in the squad, the development of a guy like Zuks [Luzuko Vulindlu] will continue – he hasn’t even played Currie Cup rugby yet, Chris Jordaan, Lwazi Mvovo are other guys who have been in the system and we’re looking to see if they can step up this year.
“We’ve got a couple of forwards as well, Dale Chadwick and Wiehahn Herbst, so we’re going to see quite a few names in The Sharks squad that people don’t really know, and that’s just because of the fact that this is their turn. They’ve been in the system at age group level and done alright and now it’s their chance to step up.”
But it isn’t a completely inexperienced side, the loose forward trio boast over 220 Sharks caps in total while Albert van den Berg, Skipper Badenhorst, Andries Strauss and even Craig Burden and Pat Cilliers have been in the system for some time.
However, while this is an opportunity for youngsters to step up to the plate and raise their hands, the squad has a number of other players not participating in this match, and who will return to the side either from injury, rest or national commitment giving the impression that general squad depth is in a healthy state.
While the side named to play the Pumas tomorrow night shows a number of youngsters in it, the coaching staff will welcome a number of players back from next week ahead of their opening fixture.
“The Currie Cup side next week [against Western Province in Cape Town] will be a lot different,” Plumtree confirms. “We’ll hopefully have some guys back from the Bok setup and we have a few injuries at the moment and hopefully we’ll get them back for next week.”
However, this game does afford Plumtree and the rest of his management group the ideal circumstances to gauge what the young players offer.
“It’s an opportunity to see a few things, Guy Cronje (pictured) playing at flyhalf, Zuks at 13, Ian Adendorff coming off the bench, Chris Jordaan at fullback and Wiehahn Herbst upfront. So it’s an opportunity for them to play and for us to see if they can cope because the Pumas’ side is pretty physical and they will be looking forward to taking us on, they did well against probably more of an experienced side at the start of the season. However, the outcome is not as important to me as much as seeing these young guys play.”
The Sharks’ coach admits that the selection of Keegan Daniel to captain the side is further opportunity to develop the leadership in the squad.
“Keegan has a lot of natural leadership values and he’ll lead by example, a player who leads by his actions and those are always the kind of captains that I like to appoint. There are a couple of guys in the squad who have captained before and can support Keegan but I think it’s time for us to start growing a new young leader through the ranks and that’s why he’s got the job.”
With the start of the Absa Currie Cup just over a week away, Plumtree is positive that his side will go into the tournament with the best preparation possible.
“The players that are involved have had a bit more rest this time around because the competition is starting a bit later than usual and obviously not going as far in the Super 14, they’ve had a bit more of a break so we’ll be as ready as we can be.
“We have a few injured players we need to get back and if we get two or three guys back from the Boks, we have to turn them into a different team pretty quickly. For us, the Currie Cup is always a challenge, we lose so many players and the supporters have to be pretty patient. It’s not easy for a side that loses so many players.”Tweet