Our final preview takes a look at the Sharks team for the 2012 Super Rugby season. The Sharks finished sixth last year, conceding to the Crusaders in a play-off match in New Zealand, but will hope to go one better and make it into the semi-finals.
Both centurions in the team have left, with both John Smit and Stefan Terblanche plying their trade in Europe, but this has opened the door for exciting things to happen, as Bismarck du Plessis, regarded as one of the best hookers in the world, finally gets to show his worth in the middle of that front row.
Pre-season injuries to key members in the front row, as well as the departure of Eugene van Staden has left the Sharks low on front row stock, with the coach still of the opinion that a loan player must be found. The younger front row forwards will have to step up in the early part of the season.
The rest of the pack looks solid, with a variety of locks to choose from after the Sharks brought back Steven Sykes from Ireland, with Ross Skeate, Anton Bresler and Al Hargreaves making up the second row options, with young Pieter-Steph du Toit hoping to make an impression somewhere along the line. As for the loose forwards, Keegan Daniel being captain secures his spot in the run on team, and the other two positions will have to be decided between an array of players. Willem Alberts and Ryan Kankowski are the Boks to choose from, then throw in Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes and Marcell Coetzee and it is quite a headache of a selection, should all the players be fit ofcourse.
Another injury to Conrad Hoffmann has ruled him out for most part of the season, leaving the Sharks a little short in the scrumhalf department, with Charl McLeod and young Cobus Reinach specialist nine’s, with French international Fred Michalak able to do duty in the position. Pat Lambie has been earmarked to play pivot for the campaign, but again, the backup to the young play maker looks a little shaky, with Michalak able to step in, but only makeshift flyhalves behind these two.
Recruiting Tim Whitehead and the move of JP Pietersen to thirteen has filled up the centre stocks for the Sharks, with Meyer Bosman, Marius Joubert and Paul Jordaan to add to the depth. Outside backs are also plentiful, with Mvovo, Ndungane and Sithole the wings and new recruit Riaan Viljoen and Louis Ludik fighting it out for the fullback jersey.
Players to watch this year are definitely Marcell Coetzee and Tim Whitehead, as both players will be getting some decent game time and will prove their worth. Bismarck du Plessis in his first season as first and only choice hooker will also want to impress, especially with an eye on the Springbok jersey.
All in all, the Sharks seem to have the players and the necessary experience to do well this year, but it will come down to closing out tight games, making the most of playing against weaker teams (read bonus points) and a little bit of luck on the injury front to make it to the top of not only the South African conference, but booking that home semi final spot.Tweet