It’s crept up on us a little bit, but the 2014 Vodacom Cup competition will finally kick off on Friday.
New Sharks XV head coach Deon Kayser faces a somewhat simple-seeming start to the campaign, with his charges set to face the Border Bulldogs down in East London on Friday evening in their first match. The woes that have beset that union over the last 12 months don’t need to be repeated here, but even with the strongest possible desire to talk up their chances, there’s simply no way these Bulldogs should provide more than token opposition, notwithstanding having lured an experienced coach like Eugene Eloff to the province.
Kayser’s challenge, as always, is one of managing expectations. As the second team of a strong franchise, the Sharks XV is always going to boast its fair share of Super Rugby fringe players and for the coaches, the difficult part is figuring out a way to accommodate those players, who may change on a week by week basis, without disrupting the core of youngsters who will be the team’s mainstay over the course of a campaign.
Certainly this year will be no different. Based on the Tiger Sharks XV (clearly Kayser’s shadow selection) that played in a friendly last week, a large contingent of Jake White’s extended Super Rugby squad should take the field in white and black this weekend. Monde Hadebe, Peet Marais and Tera Mtembu are all expected to feature up front, while Stefan Ungerer, Fred Zeilinga (last year’s player of the year), Andre Esterhuizen, Hansie Graaff, Jaco van Tonder and Tim Swiel should all get some sort of game time at the back. Clearly, with quite so many flyhalves and fullbacks, it won’t be possible for all to start, though. Thomas du Toit, the 18-year-old prop, may well feature at some stage too.
There are, of course, a fair few Currie Cup regulars in the mix as well, with Wiehahn Herbst, Edwin Hewitt, Marco Wentzel, Francois Kleinhans and Sizo Maseko likely for game time. In fact, the more you look at it, the less likely it seems that there will be all that many youngsters involved at all, particularly in these opening weeks. Of the players who played age-group rugby for the Sharks last year, only flank Khaya Majola, number 8 Johann Meyer, scrumhalf Hanco Venter and outside centre Neil Maritz look good bets for a place in Kayser’s initial match 23.
We expect the Sharks XV line-up to be confirmed by tomorrow at the latest.Tweet