With the curtain coming down on the 2014 Super Rugby season, it is unfortunately time to say our fond goodbyes to a number of Sharks stalwarts, who have opted to move on to pastures new.
First and foremost among them is former skipper Keegan Daniel, who leaves the Sharks after 8 years to join the Kubota Spears in Japan. 29-year-old Daniel, who joined the Sharks Academy in 2004 and made his senior debut in 2006, epitomised a dynamic, young generation of home-grown stars who were given their opportunity under the enterprising Dick Muir and came of age under his successor John Plumtree. As fans, we’ve watched Keegan mature from a mercurial and often hot-tempered youngster, whose passion for the Sharks was matched only by his prodigious skill, into a dependable team man who cemented a regular starting spot despite his somewhat more compact form factor and went on to turn many a game in the side’s favour. Asked to step into the captaincy void in 2011, Daniel led the Sharks to the final of the Currie Cup in 2011, 2012 and 2013 as well as Super Rugby in 2012, finally securing a trophy in last year’s domestic showpiece. Daniel leaves the Sharks having played 105 Super Rugby matches (scoring 16 tries) and 99 Currie Cup games (in which he scored 33 tries).
Charl McLeod, he of the amazing Currie Cup Final try-scoring feats, also leaves, heading to Grenoble in France. The 30-year-old scrumhalf has been a Sharks player since 2008, when he was offered a chance at a “big union” after a stunning set of performances for the Valke in the previous year’s Currie Cup. Quickly establishing a reputation as a dependable player with a great pass and devastating turn of pace, McLeod cemented a regular first team spot once Ruan Pienaar and Rory Kockott had move on and has played an important role as part of the senior player corps over the last few seasons. This was exemplified by the decision to entrust the interim acptaincy to McLeod earlier in the season when Bismarck du Plessis was unable to play against the Highlanders. He leaves with 73 Super Rugby caps (including 5 tries) and 56 Currie Cup caps. Perhaps more important, though are the three tries scored in two Currie Cup Finals (2010 and 2013) that turned both of those games in the Sharks’ favour.
Jean Deysel, a man who somewhat oddly shares a birthday with Daniel, found a home in Durban in 2007 after a frustrating early career with the Lions. Quickly establishing himself as a key go-to-man in a Sharks pack lacking a hard edge following the retirement of AJ Venter, Deysel’s bullocking runs and uncompromising approach to the game saw him become a fan favourite and also play his way into the Springbok side, before a strong of knee injuries saw his star wane a little. True to his nature, though, Deysel endured month after month of painful rehab to re-establish himself as a key man in the back row, where his ability to cover number 8 and lock in addition to his favoured blindside flank position was highly valued by coaches. He leaves the team to join Toyota Verblitz in Japan with a relatively low tally of Super Rugby caps, 67, an indication of just how much of a factor those injuries were. He has also ammassed 77 Currie Cup caps and also worn the captain’s armband on occasion.
Anton Bresler is another stalwart to whom the injury gods have not been kind, of late. Coming through the junior ranks, successive coaches identified Bresler as a key workhorse figure in the pack – while others may have come to the Sharks boasting all-star pedigree, big Bresler made up for all of that with a hard-nosed approach and uncompromising work ethic that made him impossible not to pick in the second row whenever fit. A succession of shoulder injuries robbed him of the chance to earn a Super Rugby half century and he leaves to join Edinburgh Rugby Club with 42 Super Rugby caps and 44 Currie Cup caps to his name. He has scored a single try in each competition.
Also leaving is tight head prop Wiehahn Herbst. “Wors” leaves the Sharks to join Ulster in Ireland after a 5-year senior career in which he established himself as a dependable Currie Cup front ranker and capable deputy to Jannie du Plessis at Super Rugby level. Herbst came through the Sharks Academy and Junior ranks, earning Junior Springbok representation along the way and proved over a succession of seasons at senior rugby level that he could always be counted on to do his bit for the team whenever called upon. Wiehahn leaves with 40 Super Rugby caps and 82 Currie Cup appearances, having scored two tries in the latter competition.
To all our departing legends, we offer our thanks and our unending love. There’s really not much more that can be said without being reduced to rather unmanly tears. Go well, Sharks men, and keep our flag flying proudly wherever you pull on a jersey.Tweet