With the Currie cup final victory having had a week to sink in, Sharks fans have a lot of players to thank for their outstanding commitment, team spirit and great rugby that the Sharks squad provided us with. Credit goes not only to those players who were in the final match 22 but every member of the squad. Some of the players have already moved on and some will have new challenges next season, nevertheless, we salute every player for their role in a victorious campaign. Much credit must be also given to the coaching staff who turned a season that started with five consecutive defeats around to end with the Currie cup trophy. I know there has been some bad news this past week and I hope remembering the Currie cup campaign and the men who made it possible will bring a smile back Sharks fans faces. Enjoy it!
The “Beast” has become a hero with the Sharks and Boks. He has had to endure a tough year and responded by driving the Sharks forward with his excellent carries, bone-jarring defense and strong scrumming. Beast is an incredibly popular member of the Sharks squad and he played a big role in the triumph in the final after driving the Sharks on in the round robin stages as well.
Bismarck du Plessis
Bissie had just started to find his best form in the Super 14 when he had a neck injury which had to be operated on. Bissie returned to the Sharks squad in the Currie cup and made a big impact. Not only is Bissie an incredibly strong ball carrier and scrummager but he also acts as a fourth loose forward and often wins turnovers for the Sharks. He ripped the ball which was the start of Charl McLeod’s try which started the game off on the best possible note and set the stage for an epic victory.
Jannie du Plessis
Big Jannie was a regular in the Springbok side this year and returned to the Sharks after recovering from injury to form part of an all-Springbok front row with his brother and the beast and helped to lay the solid platform from which the likes of McLeod, Lambie, Mvovo thrived. Jannie has never been on the losing side in a Currie cup final and here’s hoping he plays many more for the Sharks.
Tight forwards are seldom the ones to collect the accolades and hit the headlines. Sykes has gone about his job with little fuss. The Sharks victory was built on a platform of forward dominance and Sykes definitely had a role in that. Sykesie is not a guy you normally notice on a rugby field which is actually a good thing for a tight lock. He is a player who has come on in leaps and bounds for the Sharks and has become a key member of a successful Sharks squad.
Hargreaves has taken over the number 5 lock position from former captain and Sharks stalwart Johann Muller. Hargs has been an absolute revelation this season and even dominated Vic Matfield in the semi final at line out time. Al’s leadership has also been vital and it seems he is starting to fulfill his potential as a great lock forward and leader. Alistair was prominent in his ball carries and was excellent in linking with the backs. His lineout work and leadership as mentioned earlier were also vital to the squad.
What a season for Keegan Daniel, capped off by his surprise but not undeserved inclusion in the Bok end of year tour squad. Keegs has been a vital cog in the Sharks machine this year. He has been the leader of the pack and set an example to the team with his commitment and great performances. Keegs also weighed in with 8 tries including the only try of the semi final. Keegs probably epitomised the Sharks squad by rising to the occasion as a relatively unheralded player who really excelled when it mattered most, not least when he scored the only try of the semi.
Big Vic has been a great addition to the squad and he added a huge presence to the team. The huge ball carries which have become his trademark constantly put the opposition on the back foot and carried the Sharks over the advantage line. With Jean Deysel having very little playing time due to injury, Alberts had a bigger load to carry and he carried it very well, earning a Bok call up as a result of his consistently good form. A common sight in the 2010 Currie cup was players bouncing off of the big blindside flanker and continually bashed his side onto the front foot.
Kanko is a real game breaker and he weighed in with some wonderful performances for the Sharks, most notably ripping the Cheetahs defense to shreds in Durban when the Sharks triumphed for charity in their pink jerseys. The nay sayers said he disappeared in tight matches but he stood up against the Bulls in the semi and Province in the final showing that he had the game for all occasions. Kanko has proved to be a real gamebreaker who kept the opposition defense occupied.
I remember my dad telling me a few years ago about the Valke scrumhalf (who was of course McLeod) who would surely be snapped up by a bigger team because he was such a good player. Charl McLeod arrived at the Sharks the next year without much fanfare and was content to bide his time on the bench until his chance arrived. When that chance arrived, Charl took it and ran with it and never stopped. One of the outstanding players in the Sharks squad. Charl’s dedication to the team was shown by him hobbling onto the field on one foot to celebrate with his teammates after sustaining the ankle injury just before half time. He showed wonderful vision to set up and score the first try in the final and as a scrumhalf was a crucial decision maker over the whole season and is one of the real success stories of Currie cup 2010.
The young Lambie was picked in the Sharks touring squad to gain some experience and injuries duly forced the coaching staff to pick the youngster against the Highlanders. Lambie performed very well and did not lose his starting position for the rest of the season. With the Sharks suffering from flyhalf problems, Lambie was moved to inside centre and then to flyhalf when Steve Meyer had a season-ending injury. Lambie responded by becoming the playmaker in the Sharks squad and despite being written off as a unreliable goal kicker, scored 205 points (second most in Currie cup 2010) and ultimately scoring 25 points in the final on his way to earning a Springbok call up. Pat is a very mature young man who is ice cool under pressure which has served the Sharks well in this season and looks set to for many years to come as the young man is only 20. Stay humble and you will achieve great things.
Another player who was introduced into the Sharks Super 14 team as a bit of a no name. He duly delivered good performance after performance and kept his place in the team. Lwazi was the top try scorer for the Sharks with 12 tries which was the second most tries in the competition. Has a wonderful ability to run around or through defenders and was a vital part of the Sharks team this season, his pace and power has left opposition players clutching at air or lying on the ground having been brushed off. His commitment on defense was also huge and was evidenced by his try saving tackle on Gio Aplon in the final. His season was also capped off with a deserved Springbok call up.
Dries has forever been the stalawart of the Sharks team. He was a player who did not get many opportunities but was given the Sharks inside centre starting position this season. The fans groaned and the critics pointed to the centres as the weak point in the Sharks team. Dries responded with a performance of epic proportions, inspiring his team to dominance in the final. Dries really shut his critics up properly. It is very sad to see such a commited player with great leadership qualities leave the team at the end of the season and we wish him well with his Cheetahs rugby career.
With John Smit with the Boks and Johann Muller off to Ulster, someone had to step to the reigns of Sharks captain. Plum turned to the veteran to lead the team. One of the fittest players around, Oom Stef really led the team from the front and fittingly lifted the Currie cup on Saturday. The team was rarely lacking motivation and Terblanche really had the players fired up for especially the semi and the final. His speech after the final was a great tribute to the great team environment and spirit that he helped to forge. Even when playing at the unfamiliar position of outside centre, Oom Stef performed above expectations and was a vital part of the Sharks backline.
Another player who was written off. Odders has the uncanny ability to turn up at the right place and the right time. This has seen him finish off many Sharks tries. He has also been massive in defense and shut down the dangerous Bryan Habana in the final. Although he is a Springbok in his own right, Odwa had to wait for his chances when JP Pietersen was fit. However with JPP struggling with injury and attending a Springbok conditioning camp, Ndungane had a good few chances to make his mark on the right wing position. Blessed with deceptive pace, Odders weighed in with 7 tries for the Sharks in the Currie cup.
Ludik strggled with injury this season but came out on top with some wonderful performances. First the horrible knee injury suffered when playing against the British and Irish Lions kept him out of the entire Super 14. Ludik then suffered concussion and then thigh injuries after his comeback. People wrote him off as not being the same player after his injury. Louis hit back by running hard and fast as well as being a very solid defender. One of the biggest hits of the final was when Ludik smashed Schalk Burger back in a monstrous tackle. Ludik was a vital part of the Sharks backline at fullback.
Although he had to sit on the bench in the final, Burden was a vital cog in the team which topped the Currie cup log. An amazing try scoring record for a hooker, Burden often scored crucial tries for the Sharks and his pace and strength was a constant worry for opposition defenders. Not counting his try scoring feats (he scored 4 this season), Craig scrummed well and his lineout throwing was also solid, much like Bismarck du Plessis Burden played almost as a fourth loose forward and won many turnovers for the Sharks, a real star in the 2010 Currie cup.
Eugene van Staden
van Staden arrived as a real no name player in the Sharks set up. The former Montpellier prop’s arrival was not even announced. But he made up for lost time and he made his name as a vital member of the Sharks squad. Scrumming strongly is not the only thing a modern prop forward has to do and while van Staden certainly did the latter he was an incredibly strong ball runner as well. Came on as a replacement in the final and kept the team’s momentum going. One of the finds of the 2010 Currie cup season.
Anton took the long way around to make it into the Sharks setup. He attended the Zululand academy and from there impressed the Sharks coaching staff enough to play for the Sharks age group teams. A surprise inclusion on the bench for the semi and final, Plum clearly sees a big future for young Anton, and rightly so. A committed player who will never let the team down. He has a big future at the Sharks having won his first Currie cup at the age 22.
Another important leader in the Sharks set up, Botes was kept out of the starting lineup by the incredible form of Keegan Daniel. Botes is another player who arrived as a no name in the Sharks team albeit a few years ago. He has been a stalwart in KZN rugby since then and contributed to the excellent forward effort which won the trophy for the Sharks.
Rory struggled a bit for form this year but he did contribute greatly to the Sharks cause. Rory was probably not expecting to get a full half of rugby in the final but he did due to Charl McLeod’s injury. He then answered his critics by delivering a superb performance and played his role in a superb victory.
Petoors arrived with a reputation as being injury-prone and Sharks medical staff did a good job to get the man in shape to play his role in the Sharks triumph. He did not have as much impact on the field as he would have wanted due to Pat Lambie’s fantastic form, but Petoors nevertheless played an important role in the squad as an old head. Pretorius can now add a Currie cup winner’s medal to his RWC winner’s medal.
Swannie was another player to have a frustrating Currie cup season but he also stepped up when he was needed and never let the squad down. A big strong ball runner and defender, Swannie often played off of the bench or in combination with Dries Strauss and played a cameo in the final few minutes as well. There is a bit of uncertainty about whether Swannie will be staying with the Sharks next year and I certainly hope he does stay and fights his way into a starting position.
The other Pat in the squad. Young Pat Cilliers stood in for Beast Mtawarira when the latter was with the Boks and played an important role in a dominant Sharks pack. Unlucky not to be part of the final match 22, Cilliers played a huge role in the team and it is a shame to see such a talented player leaving the Sharks.
Herbst was another young prop who was standing for a Springbok and was also unlucky to miss out on the final match day squad. Wiehan is a young player who has battled back from a serious injury last year to emerge with real credit in an excellent Sharks team.
The combative hooker played for both the Sharks under 21s and did a lot of duty on the Sharks bench when Bismarck du Plessis was recovering from injury or at the Bok training camp. Kyle did a great job when he came onto the field and constantly kept the Sharks on the front foot.
Skeato left the riches of Toulon to join the Sharks and was probably seen as a replacement for the departing Johann Muller. He struggled a bit with injuries but when he did play, Skeate did very well and we all look forward to the value he will bring to the Sharks Super 15 challenge.
Mossie arrived as another former Lions player with injury problems and promptly got injured in the first few minutes of his Sharks Super 14 debut. He worked very hard to return to full fitness and join the squad and get some game time under his belt. His physicality and ball carrying ability will be useful in the Super 15 next year.
The big guy filled many roles for the Sharks this year, he played blindside flank, lock and sat on the bench a good number of times and served his team with distinction. When the big ball-carrying blindsides of Deysel and Alberts were both injured, Rhodes fulfilled that role well and bashed his team forward on many an occasion. It is a shame to lose such a talented player as he leaves for the Lions next year.
Skollie had very limited game time this year and to be honest struggled to make an impact when he did come on, however he is still a member of the victorious squad. Ndlovu appears not to have secured a contract with the Sharks next year and Sharksworld would like to wish him all the best for his future.
Wolla had very minimal game time this year as he overcame an injury sustained in the Super 14 and then was ruled out until a few weeks into the Super 15 with a serious knee injury. Sharksworld would like to wish him all the best with his recovery and we are eagerly awaiting his return to fitness and his destructive best.
Ruan was another who had a short-lived Currie cup campaign in 2010, first getting injured and before leaving to take up a contract with Ulster where he has apparently been performing quite well.
Steve Meyer had a good few games at flyhalf before a knee injury put paid to his season. By playing inside Pat Lambie Meyer offered the youngster a chance to get used to playing closer to the play and thus enabled him to slot better into the flyhalf berth.
Monty has had a difficult season with the Sharks in 2010, with his toughest test being playing at fullback against the Blue Bulls at Loftus and performing quite well in the circumstances. With the emergence of Pat Lambie as flyhalf and the presence of Andre Pretorius in the squad meant Monty chose to continue his career with the EP Kings and Sharksworld wishes him all the best with that venture.
Zuks had precious little game time for the Sharks this season after recovering from injury. It was however great to see him back to the playing field and he showed some of the form which earned him rave reviews on his debut for the Sharks in the 2009 Super 14. Zuks will be an important member of the Sharks Super 15 squad next year.
JP had to overcome injury before playing a good few games for the Sharks and he played well in the time he did have on the field. JP played in the semi final and unfortunately had to go off with a hamstring problem which has also unfortunately ruled him out of the end of year tour. JP now had time to enjoy the off season so that he can be on top form come next year’s crucial RWC season.
Adi had to overcome injury for most of the Currie cup season and when he was ready, he was tied down to the Bok conditioning programme so that he only played off the bench in the last league match of the season for the Sharks against Western Province, scoring a try in the process. Despite being unlucky not to make either the semi or final match 22s, Adi was given a place on the Bok end of year touring squad due to a number of players being ruled out by injury.
John Plumtree (Head Coach):
Plum was written off as a coach at the start of the season where he was severely criticised for his team’s gameplan and lack of spirit. Plum responded by moulding the team into a unit who proved very difficult to beat in the latter half of the Super 14. Plum then showed courage in changing to a bold new gameplan and moving Pat Lambie to centre and then flyhalf. Despite losing close friend John Mudgeway the day before the final, Plum still inspired his team to a wonderful win. Plum, we underestimated you!
Grant Bashford (Assistant Coach):
Bashie has always been a good assistant to Plum and played a role in the team’s ultimate triumph. John Mudgeway was also a close friend to Bashie. Bashie works very closely with Plum in preparing the team and deserves accolades for a wonderful season where the Sharks were clearly the best team in the Currie cup.
Hugh Reece-Edwards (Backline consultant):
Reece was roundly written off and his was chastised for his previous stint as head coach which was not as successful as he would have liked, however Reece got the backline going well and it the work he put in showed with the three superb tries scored in the final.
What a great Currie cup season and it is one that Sharks fans will savour. As you look over this article, remember the good times and remember the treasured golden cup being lifted up by Stefan Terblanche. Savour the taste of victory and join me as we look forward to the 2011 rugby season.