John Plumtree has to make a decision on the way forward for his team in this season’s Currie Cup? Does he focus on next season’s Super 15 by blooding youngsters or will he focus on trying to win trophies and stick with his conservative selections? Is there perhaps a middle ground?
With so many stars in the making in the Sharks setup not getting opportunities and this has in the past led them to move on to greener pastures, Plum has a balancing act on his hands to keep his stars happy while giving the young guys a chance. Dick Muir basically gave up the 2005 and 2006 Currie Cup seasons in order to rebuild a team and that gamble paid off in a few ways, a good (almost great) 2007 Super 14 season and a nucleus of Springboks in the Sharks squad. So, while Plum is not in exactly the same rebuilding situation as what Muir was, he will have to tweak his team at least a little to bring in a bit of freshness and also replace the players who are going to be on Bok duty.
Looking at the talent available, the Sharks should be title challengers and if I was Plum, I would tend to go with the third option in my opening paragraph. With the Boks almost definitely not playing in the Currie Cup, let’s have a look at the players who are in the Sharks Currie Cup mix:
Props: Beast Mtawarira, Wiehahn Herbst, Pat Cilliers, Sabs Nhlapo
It looks like we will have the Beast for the Currie Cup due to his national eligibility issues which will be a big boost to the Sharks front row. Herbst should continue his rise to prominence and make the tighthead jersey his own in the Currie Cup with the more than capable backups in Pat Cilliers and Sabs Nhlapo who should both be given chances as well.
Hookers: Craig Burden, Kyle Cooper, Hannes Snyman
Ironically the hooker berth seems like it will be one of the positions where the most development will take place. Craig Burden looks set to be the first choice hooker and drive the Sharks forward with his intense and robust play. Kyle Cooper and Hannes Snyman, who both played Vodacom Cup this year, are his backups and the two young players should get some game time as well. There is a chance that Bismarck du Plessis may need some Currie Cup game time when he recovers from his injury, so he may be available for a few games as well.
Locks: Steven Sykes, Alistair Hargreaves, Gerhard Mostert, Anton Bresler, Jandre Marais
The first choice lock pairing should be the one which did battle in many Super 14 games this year when Johann Muller was injured. Sykes will play the enforcer role while Hargreaves will play the more “loose” role while his leadership will also be very important in the campaign. Gerhard Mostert should recover from his shoulder injury some time in the Currie Cup and will then be in the mix as well. The excellent Sharks XV lock pairing of Bresler and Jandre Marais should also come into the reckoning. Mike Rhodes is also an option at lock.
Loose-forwards: Jaqcues Botes, Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts, Keegan Daniel, Justin Downey, Michael Rhodes, Luvuyo Lusaseni, Skholiwe Ndlovu
As is the general case with South African franchises, the looseforward problem is not one of depth but rather of who to leave out. The first choice trio will probably the Botes, Deysel, Alberts combo which did duty in the absence of Ryan Kankowski. Keegan Daniel will also no doubt get some game time. The back up players include Justin Downey who can cover all 3 loosie positions as well as the bruiser Rhodes. Lusaseni and Ndlovu are also there and thereabouts.
Scrumhalves: Rory Kockott, Charl McLeod, Ross Cronje
With Ruan Pienaar likely to be involved with the Boks, Rory Kockott will probably take the first choice scrumhalf berth with Charl McLeod as his backup. Ross Cronje is the young player pushing for a place in the team.
Flyhalves: Monty Dumond, Guy Cronje, Jaqcues Venter
The flyhalf situation is not as bad some people will try to lead you to believe. Monty Dumond did a great job in last year’s Currie Cup while Guy Cronje will probably recover in time to play a part in the Currie Cup. Jacques Venter had a few games in the Vodacom Cup and should be the backup. Pat Lambie also looks like he might have a few games at pivot as well.
Centres: Riaan Swanepoel, Jean Stemmet, Jerome Pretorius, Andries Strauss
In the centres we have the solid Swannie and probably Jean Stemmet as the first choice combination. Trompie Pretorius is a good back up centre who did very well for the Sharks XV and Mr. Reliable, Andries Strauss should also be in the mix. Adi Jacobs is probably in the same situation as Bissie in that he might need some game time before going off to the Bok squad and he may therefore have a role to play in the Currie Cup.
Wings: Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, Mark Richards, Chris Jordaan, Luzuko Vulindlu
The recent form of Lwazi Mvovo has probably secured him the first choice wing spot with the experienced Odwa Ndungane. The players who have performed well for the Sharks XV and should be in the mix are Chris Jordaan, Zuks Vulindlu and the very promising Mark Richards.
Fullbacks: Patrick Lambie, Stefan Terblanche, Louis Ludik
It’s the tale of the young and the old in the fullbacks. First choice will probably go to one of Pat Lambie or Stef Terblanche, although the latter hinted in a recent(ish) interview that he is not expecting to start every game. While Louis Ludik seems to have recovered from his knee injury and comes into the reckoning for the fullback berth, although a utility back role with him covering fullback, wing and centre.
We will probably add the names of flyhalf Andre Pretorius and wing Lionel Mapoe to this list, but these players Sharks future’s are subject to medical tests and contract disputes respectively needing to be resolved.
The player depth within the union DOES look good and there is a scope for having an established first choice while also giving younger players time to develop. Here’s hoping that Plum manages his playing resources in a way that will secure a long-term success with the Sharks as well as competing for the trophy.
If the team spirit shown in the last 8 matches of the Super 14 can be sustained, this group of players does have the ability to do very well and challenge for the title.Tweet