Sean Everitt and the rest of the Sharks XV coaches are currently putting a pretty large squad of players through their paces to try and determine which of those guys will give the union the best chance of bringing the Vodacom Cup trophy to the Shark Tank this season. There are currently around 40 players in the wider training squad, but this will be cut down to a more manageable size closer to the start of the season.
There’s a pretty interesting blend of faces in the group, with the bulk of the squad made up of current Sharks age-group players. While there was a bit of a clear-out after last year’s under-21 competition, there is still a fair bit of representation from those ranks, while a good number of last year’s under-19 side, which Everitt himself coached, will get the opportunity to show their aptitude for senior rugby. There are also a few representatives who have excelled on the local club scene – mostly for Rovers – as well as one or two experienced campaigners who have returned to the Sharks after time abroad.
While we haven’t managed to obtain an official squad list, we’ve managed to piece together a pretty accurate idea of what it currently looks like. There’s always the possibility of a few players being in there that we haven’t heard about, but I’m sure those names will come out in time.
The front row contains a great blend of promising youth and experienced campaigners, with Sabelo Nhlapo and Dale Chadwick likely to fight it out over the number 1 jersey, much as they did last year. With Julian Redelinghuys out for the entire campaign with a knee injury and Wiehahn Herbst also out – possibly for the first few rounds – a pair of seasoned veterans in Robbie Harris and Ken Fourie will provide cover at tighthead. Harris last played for the Sharks in 2008, before spending time with Leicester in the UK, while Fourie hasn’t worn the black and white since the 1998 Currie Cup – the 33-year-old having made a name for himself playing for Cardiff in Wales. Kyle Cooper and Jody Jenneker should be front-runners for the hooking berth, with age-group players like Monde Hadebe and Sean Malton also pushing hard.
There’s further Currie Cup experience in the second row, with Anton Bresler likely to play a strong leadership role in the tight five, together with young players like the Marais brothers (Jandre and Peet) and Kene Okafor. Bresler’s locking partner at Rovers, Byron Egan, has also been rewarded for his consistently good form in 2010 with a place in the training squad, but he’ll need to work hard to unseat any of the promising youngsters in the squad.
Places in the loose trio are seriously up for grabs, with few of the players who represented the Sharks XV last year still around. From last year’s under 21 squad, only Lambert Groenewald and Dan Oijambo have been retained, while Lee Thompson and Cameron Dunlop are still in the picture from last year’s Vodacom Cup squad. Nico Claasen, a flanker who played for the Sharks at age-group level in 2009 before throwing in his lot with the Valke last year, has also returned, while the promising under 19 trio of Francois Kleinhans, Siseko Jafta and Marcell Coetzee are all very much in the mix as well.
Ross Cronje looks a good bet to captain the side from scrum-half, with Cobus Reinach backing him up, while the flyhalf options – Guy Cronje, Willie du Plessis and Fred Zeilinga (who only turned 18 last month) – are all young, but very exciting. In fact, when you look at the backline as a whole, you realise how great the challenge is facing Everitt, as centre Jerome Pretorius, who turns 23 in March, is the oldest player in the whole group!
The other centres are all age-group players, with Dwayne Jenner and Howard Mnisi from last year’s under-21 side joined by under-19s in Piet Lindeque and Heimar Williams. There’s a bit of a lack of depth at wing, with Kieran Goss, Rosco Speckman and another club star in Anton Verster all in the picture. Fullback will be adequately covered by Wynand Pienaar, who played there with distinction for the under 21s before breaking his leg late in the season, Jaco van Tonder and Gouws Prinsloo.Tweet