The Vodacom cup has almost always been hailed as a competition in which the younger players will come through and make a push for inclusion in the Currie Cup later in the season and possibly even a place in the Super rugby squad of their union.
Despite the stated aim of developing young players, the Vodacom cup squads of the Super rugby franchises have generally been viewed as purely second string with guys who have not cracked the nod for the Super Rugby squad to keep match fit for if and when an opportunity arises to join the main squad. These players know they are second string and are essentially waiting for the guys ahead of them in the pecking order to get injured or suffer a loss of form. On top of that, the coaches of these sides also know they are a phone call away from losing their best players and as such it is difficult to keep squad continuity in what is a long and demanding competition in its own right. To make it even more difficult for the bigger unions, there is also the matter of the smaller unions who have full strength teams and are that much more difficult to beat and are itching for a prize scalp of a bigger union. Older fringe players may feel a bit hard done by if they had to play in the Vodacom cup instead of Super Rugby and that would subconciously put a negative vibe into the camp. Consequently the bigger unions, who have academies and dominate age group provincial rugby generally do not perform to their potential in the Vodacom cup.
The Sharks XV have a bit more of a youthful look to them this year with fringe players from last year’s main Sharks squad such as Pat Cilliers, Michael Rhodes, Rory Kockott, Monty Dumond and Waylon Murray having moved on to other unions. This might turn out to be a very good thing as these guys have a carrot of Currie Cup selection later in the year dangling in front of them if they perform well in the Vodacom Cup. This is a World Cup year and the Sharks should provide a decent amount of players to the squad who will do duty in New Zealand. Rather than see this as a negative for Sharks rugby, I would like to point out that there are now more opportunities for the great talent the Sharks acadamy.
Younger players straight out of age group rugby are more likely to see the Vodacom Cup as a fantastic opportunity to test themselves at a level which is higher than what they have been playing at. Add into the mix the Sharks’ coaching staff’s new belief in younger players which has seen the likes of Pat Lambie and Lwazi Mvovo gain Springbok caps and Anton Bresler estabilish himself in the matchday 22 and there should be plenty for the Sharks XV squad to be playing for. The coaching staff has also shown that the emergence of the aforementioned three players is no fluke by deciding against contracting Jacques Engelbrecht and instead using Lambert Groenewald and Marcell Coetzee as loose forwards in the Super rugby squad. Mark Richards is another case of a player who has been given a chance to join the squad.
So for our young Sharks XV squad there is certainly plenty to play for. The Vodacom Cup itself is a wonderful incentive for them but there is also the chance to stake a claim for a place in a team which will defend the Currie Cup this year and could even end up launching a few more Springbok careers too. Now is the team for this talented team to pull together and keep up the performances which have seen them top their log as well as staking a claim for a place in the Sharks team for the near future.Tweet