While things are starting to look up for the Sharks in the Currie Cup proper, with some new faces trickling in to boost the depth, it’s in the under 21 squad that the coaches should find themselves with something of an embarrassment of riches. The Sharks have failed to live up to expectations in the Under 21 competition over the last few years, although last year’s team did well to reach the final. This year really has to be a different story.
There should be a fair bit of continuity in the playing ranks, with a number of the guys returning from last year’s team, having played Vodacom Cup rugby in the interim. The only real shame is that the coach, Sean Everitt, haven’t been retained along with them; he looks set to coach the Under 19 side rather, with Swys de Bruyn taking over the Under 21 side. A number of stand out performances by Sharks players in the recent IRB Under 20 World Championship have really upset the apple cart as well and although we’re unlikely to see Pat Lambie get any gametime in the junior form of the game this year, a fair few of his teammates should make telling contributions.
The Sharks never struggle for tight five resources and this year is no different, with Dale Chadwick and Julian Redelinghuys both having represented South Africa at junior level. Both were capped in the Currie Cup last year and played a role in this year’s Sharks XV squad. Hooker Monde Hadebe and lock Kene Okafor were both superb in Argentina and should probably come into the starting team, with Jandre Marais, a stalwart of the under 21 and Vodacom Cup scenes, as well as a Junior Bok in 2009, completing an impressive tight five. Number 8 Tera Mthembu was probably the surprise package of the Baby Bok team and schoolboy hero Adriaan Theissinger – now apparently finally over his knee problems – will need to play out of his skin to keep the former Dale boy out of the number 8 jersey.
The Cronje twins should probably be back with the under 21s this year to provide experience and leadership to a young back division. Sbura Sithole will definitely be one of the wings – provided he doesn’t get snapped up to play Currie Cup – with veterans Rosco Speckmann and Mark Richards completing the back three. As always, it’s in the centres that the team lacks a little depth, although promising youngsters in Arno van Zyl and Piet Lindeque should provide enough cover at 13. Expect to see a young flyhalf like Wynand Pienaar or maybe even Jaco van Tonder developed in the number 12 jersey.
Possible Sharks under-21 team:
15 Mark Richards, 14 Sbura Sithole, 13 Arno van Zyl, 12 Wynand Pienaar, 11 Rosco Speckmann, 10 Guy Cronje, 9 Ross Cronje (capt), 8 Lububalo Mthembu, 7 Meyer Swanepoel, 6 Lambert Groenewald, 5 Kene Okafor, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Monde Hadebe, 1 Dale Chadwick