While much of the attention in tonight’s exhibition game at Kings Park will rightly be focused on John Smit and the plethora of past masters of the game that he has brought with him, there are one or two youngsters in the Sharks team that will face them with a great opportunity to show their wares to the Durban faithful.
Given the recent announcement that Ryan Kankowski won’t be around for the Currie Cup, the player with arguably the most to gain from tonight’s match is 21-year-old Lubabalo Siphosethu Mtembu, better known to fans and team mates simply as Tera. The former Dale College schoolboy star has paid his dues with the junior and Vodacom Cup sides over the last few seasons and has also represented South Africa both at under 20 level and in sevens. Having been on the fringes of the Super Rugby squad this year (playing for just 5 minutes against the Stormers back in round 2), he now looks set to make a big step up as the likely starting number 8 in this year’s Currie Cup.
As we’ve seen, though, Sharks fans can be pretty demanding and unfortunately can also be pretty quick to turn on a young player when things don’t always go smoothly – just ask Dale Chadwick if you don’t believe me! While the coaches and players who know him have absolutely zero doubt that Tera is ready and able to succeed at Currie Cup level and beyond, he is currently something of an unknown factor to the fans who pack Kings Park every week. As a player with ball skills reminiscent of a young Ryan Kankowski or Keegan Daniel, tonight’s exhibition match should be just the sort of occasion in which Tera could show off those skills to best effect.
The Currie Cup, of course, is likely to be a pretty tight affair and it would be naive to expect that open, running rugby would be the order of the day in that competition. For Mtembu, though, if the memory of a few decent tries or showy line breaks tonight could end up being etched into fans’ brains, it could do wonders to raise his profile a little and make him a little less of an unknown factor in their eyes.
Whatever the case, tonight’s game represents a wonderful opportunity for a number of young players to show what they can do for the Sharks and stake a claim for Currie Cup selection. Here’s wishing Tera and all the others, the best of luck for the game.Tweet