The recent warm-up game against the Western Force was a disappointing result, although it does need to be seen in the right context as well. While some reports and comments (not on this site) have suggested that the Sharks do not have a strong enough squad to compete in the Super 14 this year and that they are undergoing a “transitional phase”, I believe that there is more than enough potential for this squad to be competitive.
Looking at the depth issue first, I will run through the squad and hopefully put that to rest. I am going to assume that Willem Alberts will end up playing for the Sharks this year, so I will include them in the depth discussion.
Starting with the front row, there are four Springboks in Deon Carstens, Beast Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis and John Smit who are pushed hard by upcoming players such as Craig Burden and the young Wian Herbst. I would say the front row looks good, especially looking at the under 21 players from last year who might make the step up this year.
The second row situation looks just as rosy on paper, Steven Sykes, Gerhard Mostert and Alistair Hargreaves have all been in a Springbok wider training squad at least while Johann Muller has a world cup winners medal to his name as well, add to this last year’s under 21 talents of Jandre Marais and Anton Bresler and the locking stakes actually look good.
Imagine what a looseforward combination of Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts and Ryan Kankowski could accomplish if on form? Add to this the attacking talents of Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel who could run a side ragged in the last twenty minutes of a game. This is without mentioning the up and coming looseforwards.
Ruan Pienaar could play a lot of his rugby at scrumhalf this year, but if he is preferred at flyhalf, there is ample backup in Charl McLeod, Rory Kockott and Ross Cronje while Pat Lambie may also be considered here.
There are also enough quality players at flyhalf, Monty Dumond seems to be first choice perhaps until Ruan Pienaar returns from injury, if the coaching staff see him at flyhalf. While new recruit Steve Meyer and Guy Cronje add further depth.
Two Springboks in JP Pietersen and Odwa Ndungane seem likely to be the first choice wings, while Lwazi Mvovo should keep both of them on their toes while Luzuko Vulindlu, if he is seen as a wing will add further depth add Chris Jordaan into the mix and I just see depth.
In the centres the underrated Riaan Swanepoel will fight for a place in the starting XV with Springboks Adi Jacobs and Waylon Murray, while Andries Strauss and Jean Stemmet will add further depth to the squad, throw Zuks into the centre mix and the centre depth looks good.
At fullback the evergreen “oom Stef” Terblanche will add solidity at the back and a punishing boot while Louis Ludik, when he recovers from his injury, should add a more attacking dimension if needed, Lambie may also be considered here, and if that is the case, add pinpoint goalkicking into the eqaution.
So, depth does not seem to be the issue at the Sharks but rather a rustiness of both mind and body could be the reason behind last night’s performance. A worrying aspect is the poor breakdown work and that needs to be rectified before the Super 14 proper starts. Although in John Plumtree the Sharks have the perfect coach to sort out the breakdown woes, if only he recognises that problem and applies himself to correct it. I also get the feeling that a team’s commitment at the breakdown is an indication of sharpness and hunger which was perhaps missing from last night’s team, although it is a correctable problem especially in pre-season. If the breakdown work is sorted out then the backs will have a good platform to work off of and we can expect Monty Dumond and co. to flourish with go-forward ball.
So, in conclusion, there is no reason to panic, the squad looks scarily strong on paper and we can only expect the players to improve from here on in.Tweet