The ones that got away

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Lions, Original Content, Other SA Teams, Sharks on 14 Jul 2011 at 07:49
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The Sharks side for the Currie Cup match against the Blue Bulls will be named later today and is expected to contain somewhere in the regions of 14 players who have come through the Sharks Academy and age-group ranks. Perhaps more impressive, though, is the number of players named in other Currie Cup sides that have also attended the Academy.

As regular readers will know, I’m somewhat of an aficionado of youth rugby at the Sharks and I tend to take quite an interest in following the careers of many of the age group players, including those who go on to play for other teams. I was fortunate enough to interview Shark Academy MD Hans Scriba some years back and I remember him telling me that the Academy’s goal was first and foremost to produce young men capable of playing professional rugby, even though they obviously could not all play for the Sharks. While the Cheetahs, Western Province and Blue Bulls have their own successful youth programs in place, it is interesting to note that every other premier division side named for this this weekend’s opening round of the Currie Cup contains at least two former Sharks Academy students and with this in mind, you have to acknowledge that the Academy is doing what it says on the tin.

I had a quick chat with Leopards flanker Renlado Bothma this week (who incidentally tells me he hasn’t had a beer in four weeks and feels great!) whose path to the premier division has taken him on a whirlwind trip that started with the Sharks under 21 side, then moved on to the Lions and has now ended in Potchefstroom. the 1.89m and 104kg openside flank was a surprise pick straight from the age-group ranks when he made his senior Currie Cup debut for the Lions last year and has been named to start in the number 6 jersey for Leon Boshoff’s Leopards side. On the other flank is another former Shark, Luvuyiso “MB” Lusaseni, who was a Sharks stalwart before leaving to play for Griquas last year. He moved on to the Tukkies Varsity Cup side before joining Boshoff’s side.

In a frankly bizarre twist, the Leopards have a third Sharks academy loose forward on their bench in Thabo Mamojele as well. That’s in addition to Big George Tossell (a former Sharks under 21 centre who now uses his 107kg frame to devastating effect at fullback) and Danie Dames, who played wing for the Sharks at Vodacom Cup level. For those counting, that’s five players out of 22 in the Leopards squad that came through our structures.

The Pumas have three former Sharks juniors on their bench this week, in Tiaan Marx, Tian Meyer and Carl Bezuidenhout. Meyer is well-known, having been an “almost member” of the Sharks Super Rugby squad this year, while Bezuidenhout even made a single appearance for the Sharks Currie Cup team as a raw youngster some years back. Marx is a centre who has been with the Pumas for some years already, having joined them shortly after leaving the junior ranks.

We all know about the Griqua-Sharks, of course, with Justin Downey at open-side flank and Shannon Rick at scrumhalf flying the flag for Durban in the peacock blue jersey this week. Moving down to Johannesburg, though, there are few more former Sharks playing for the Lions. Pat Cilliers, whom we know well, starts at loosehead prop this week, with big lock Joe Snyman named on the bench. Further Sharks stalwarts in the form of Warren Whiteley, Mike Rhodes and Waylon Murray will also come back into their team during the course of the season.

By my reckoning, that gives a number somewhere just north of 22 players (once the Sharks side proper is taken into account) playing in this week’s opening round that have come up through the Sharks Academy – or to put it another way, slightly more than one in eight. Not a bad result for the Academy, considering that close to ten members of the extended Bok squad are graduates too.


  • Yep. I can just imagine the warm fuzzy feeling I will have as one of these guys crosses the white line for the winning try against the Sharks.

    “Shakira”, I’ll say, “at least we lost due to the efforts of a Sharks Academy Graduate. That makes it all better.”

  • Comment 1, posted at 14.07.11 08:13:34 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • Great work by the academy…What SA needs is more academies that can deliver the same results and not just rely on the varsities in their area to do it for them.

  • Comment 2, posted at 14.07.11 08:15:51 by Viking Reply
  • @Big Fish (Comment 1) : I’m sure it does 😕 😉

  • Comment 3, posted at 14.07.11 08:16:46 by Viking Reply
  • Nice work Rob.

    My view is love the juniors, get down to the ground early and watch some good rugby played by the best age group players in SA. But be realistic – only a select few will be afforded the opportunity to advance to the senior ranks. And these opportunities are not necessarily going to be with the Sharks.

  • Comment 4, posted at 14.07.11 08:19:04 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Nice Article:
    My concern as an avid junior rugby enthusiast is the amount of moving these youngsters are doing between academies and provinces in a period where stability and developing should be the primary goal. If I read correctly, Renaldo Bothma, the Jean-Pierre Rives look-a-like and play-a-like flanker, moved from the Sharks to the Leopards via the Lions in a matter of 3 years. Is that to the player’s benefit? You’ll most probably tell me yes and I’ll say no or vica verca. I know the game is professional now and academies contract them young to develop and then sign them off to other unions where they do the same and so it goes on till someone has made enough money and whatever happens to Mr Craven Week 2009…….who cares.

    THat’s why so many young promising players quit the game between the age of 19 and 22. At that stage of your life a little bit more stability is needed.

  • Comment 5, posted at 14.07.11 08:42:41 by speartackle Reply

  • @speartackle (Comment 5) : Renaldo’s biggest move was from Heidelberg to the real world :mrgreen:

  • Comment 6, posted at 14.07.11 08:46:44 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • @speartackle (Comment 5) : Spear, your comment from the other day concerns me. It seemed like you were indicating that there aren’t good structures in place at either the Lions or Leopards for u19. (Schmidt, Meecham and co looking for a game?)

    Also wanted to know if you have access to the Lions u19 team list and if Paul Willemse has lost quite a bit of weight. He was 135kg last year and many of us had the feeling he’d trim down a bit after school – it seems like that happens to a lot of <130kg schoolboy rugby players after school for some or other reason.

  • Comment 7, posted at 14.07.11 08:54:36 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Good read, great info there Rob.

  • Comment 8, posted at 14.07.11 09:20:41 by KSA Shark © Reply

    KSA Shark ©
  • @beet (Comment 7) : Willemse is looking extremely fit and played for Lions u/19 vs Leopards last week and a friend of mine’s son played for Leopards and like my friend said he’s son never speaks highly of other locks but said to his dad that Willemse is the hardest and tougest opponent he’s played against.

  • Comment 9, posted at 14.07.11 09:31:11 by speartackle Reply

  • @speartackle (Comment 9) : Well that’s good news for Paul and the Lions. Is Ruan V in the mix or with the u21 team?

  • Comment 10, posted at 14.07.11 09:50:03 by beet Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Rob, What players do WP have in their ranks that come from us?

  • Comment 11, posted at 14.07.11 10:14:57 by Richard Ferguson Reply
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    Richard Ferguson
  • @beet (Comment 10) : You know how much I rate RV but I was hugely disappointed with him in Italy. He never looked part of the games and appeared unfit. He needs to get more involved in the game and can only do that if in shape. He’ll never be an Etsebeth, running around with the ball and looking glamorous, he is the hard man, he needs to clean out rucks with aggression, make the hard hits around the fringes, work on his lineouts and when with ball in hand make sure it stays available for the next phase. This is not possible if you’re not in shape.

  • Comment 12, posted at 14.07.11 10:36:45 by speartackle Reply

  • Great article!

  • Comment 13, posted at 14.07.11 11:13:05 by vanmartin Reply
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