The Eastern Province Kings are on the up, having brought in a top coach in Alan Solomons and a fair few class players. Their goal is to win the Currie Cup first division and secure promotion to the premier division next year and the Sharks should explore ways in which to work more closely with their near-neighbours, to the mutual benefit of both unions.
I’m talking, of course, about a player-sharing deal very similar to the one employed by Free State and the Griffons, where players on the fringe of the Cheetahs squad are regularly sent up the road to Welkom to stay match sharp by playing for the Griffons in the first division. The situation tends to be a little ridiculous there, though, as one feels like the Griffons team never has a chance to train together as they’re always looking to integrate whichever players happen to have been cut from the Cheetahs team on a Thursday afternoon – for the Sharks and the Kings to work together, there would need to be a somewhat more formal arrangement in place, with players released to the Bay for the duration of the Currie Cup season.
The Kings are working desperately to attract quality players to the region, but with regular Super 15 rugby still a long way off, it’s not going to be easy to lure the sort of quality that they need – certainly not in the numbers necessary to assemble a squad with the necessary depth to ensure promotion (and ultimately that elusive Super 15 spot). The Sharks are always in the position of having more promising players than they can realistically give game time to and it would make sense to investigate a quid pro quo arrangement with somebody like the Kings. The focus should very much be on a short-term arrangement; you give our players game time and we’ll help you get to the premier division. After that, we go our separate ways, unless we can find a similarly mutual arrangement in seasons to come. Certainly, while the Sharks and Kings are playing in the same competition – or worse, competing for a limited number of Super 15 places – any suggestion of co-operation would go out of the window.
Right now, though, this arrangement could work, particularly as the return of injured players such as Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel, Gerhard Mostert, Odwa Ndungane, Adi Jacobs and Bismarck du Plessis starts to necessitate the cutting of fringe players from the Sharks Currie Cup group. Players like Justin Downey, Anton Bresler, Luvoyiso Lusaseni, Jerome Pretorius and Jean Stemmet are too good to be playing club rugby, yet are realistically unlikely to get much of a look-in for the Sharks once the regulars return. More to the point, they are all too old to play under 21 rugby, meaning that the Currie Cup first division is probably about the best level of competition they could be exposed to at this stage of the year. Even a guy like Kyle Cooper, who is still under 21, could probably learn a huge amount by playing regular senior rugby for the Kings once Bismarck du Plessis returns in earnest.Tweet