Two young Shark XV stars will be returning to their South Coast roots in the team’s Vodacom Cup clash against the Valke at the Ugu Sports and Leisure Centre in Gamalakhe on Saturday at 4.30pm. This article was written by Quintin van Jaarsveld of SARugby.com.
Try-scoring winger Anton Verster and play-making centre Jerome Pretorius learned the fundamentals of the game whilst playing together at Suid-Natal Primary School in Port Shepstone. Verster furthered his studies at Suid-Natal High School, while Pretorius opted to spend his high school years at Voortrekker.
The duo was set to be joined in the team by fellow former Suid-Natal Primary School product Marcell Coetzee, however, the hard-running eighthman, who scored his first try in Sharks XV colours in the team’s 25-5 win over the Welwitschias in Windhoek at the weekend, will miss Saturday’s clash as he’s been called up to the Sharks Super Rugby squad.
After matriculating, the two joined the Sharks Academy and top Durban club College Rovers, where they would soon be joined by Coetzee. The duo went on to play for the Sharks Under-19, Under-20, Under-21 and Sevens sides during 2007 and 2009.
Verster, Pretorius and Coetzee last year helped propel College Rovers to their first-ever SAA National Club Championship title with Verster finishing the campaign as the competition’s leading try-scorer with 22 tries in 22 games.
Verster and Pretorius’ young careers will come full circle on Saturday when they return home to play in front of their families and friends.
“I’m really looking forward to playing in my home town,” Verster told SARugby.com.
“I think it’s great that the team are playing down there because of all the fans and I’ll look to play a big game for them.”
“I think it’s a great thing that the Sharks are taking the game to all areas of the province,” commented Pretorius.
“We’ve played in Pietermaritzburg, Newcastle and Empangeni in the past so I’m very excited to play down on the South Coast after all these years.”
Sharks XV coach Sean Everitt highlighted what Verster and Pretorius bring to the team respectively. “Obviously Anton’s got incredible pace, good distribution skills from playing scrumhalf before, and he’s very good defensively,” Everitt told SARugby.com.
“Jerome is a very agile player. His got pace, a good knowledge and understanding of the game and his decision-making is really good.”
Everitt said that losing Coetzee to the Sharks Super Rugby squad was a big blow for the side, but noted that they have adequate depth in the back row to get the job done.
The Sharks XV have got their 2011 Vodacom Cup campaign off to a perfect start with successive back-to-back victories over the defending champion Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Welwitschias and find themselves in second place on the South Section log.
The Valke, in contrast, suffered heavy defeats in their first two outings against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs and DHL Western Province and are languishing at the bottom of the North Section standings.
Sharks XV Rugby Festival Programme:
9:15am Hoërskool Suid-Natal vs. Hillcrest
10:20am Creston College XV vs. St Patrick’s College XV
11:30am Scottburgh XV vs. Development XV
1pm South Coast Warriors 2nd v Kokstad 2nd
2:30pm South Coast Warriors 1st v Kokstad 1st
4pm Rugga Skills mini rugby
4:30pm Sharks XV v Valke Vodacom Cup match
6pm Official opening of SKZN gymnasium and post-match function
Image credits: Verster photo: Luke Walker/Gallo Images
Pretorius photo: Lynn Carolan