Natal Sharks Rugby Culture – JD’s view

Written by Jan Dyman (JD)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions, Sharks on 10 Jun 2013 at 13:13
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

Maybe the most accurate description of the Sharks was done here on Sharksworld. In the words of @FireTheLooser: “The French are able to produce some of the most exciting rugby ever displayed on a rugby field, able to match and beat any team physically whilst displaying some seriously mind blowing interplay and handling skills. At the same time they are able to produce the most mind numbing rugby ever. That’s right guys, the Sharks are the scaled down version of the French international rugby team.

Yet is it so simple to capture the essence of the Sharks?

From the onset of rugby on the East Coast of South Africa, the Natal rugby team did not form part of the “big boys”. They had a slow start and, with only two Currie Cup Final appearances, the first century of Natal rugby dragged past. The 80’s started on a high note with good showings against the British Lions team and the mighty Northern Transvaal side and it seemed as if things might be turning for Natal rugby. This was however short lived; Natal had to play in the lower division for most of the decade and Natal rugby seemed to be dead and buried. In 1984 Natal shocked friend and foe by beating Free State in the Currie Cup semi-final, only for the dream to be snubbed by Province in the final.

At the start of the 90’s things changed and would never be the same again for Natal rugby – the arrival of the Zimbabwean connection changed the face of Natal rugby forever. Ian MacIntosh became coach and with the help of some “big” imports and another Zimbabwean born boy (Tony Watson) the “Banana Boys” were Currie Cup Champions.

For me there are three major outside influences in Natal and Sharks rugby:

1. Imported Skills and Knowledge

Since the early 80’s Natal rugby was able to lure some experienced and talented international players like Roger Gardner (Wales), Mark Loane (Aus), Craig Ross (NZ), Murray Mexted (NZ) and Chris Butcher (Eng) to play and stay in Durban.

The class of 1990 carried on with this “tradition” and had Tom Lawton (Aus) and John Plumtree (NZ) to help.

Since then international stars like John Allan (Scot), Kevin Putt (NZ), Thierry Lacroix (France), Olivier Roumat (France), Federico Mendez (Arg), Tony Brown (NZ), Juan Martin Hernandez (Arg) and Frederic Michalak (France) had something to add to a winning Natal Sharks rugby team.

2. The Zimbabwean Factor

For me the Zimbabwean factor came to prominence with the 1990 final where both the coach (Ian MacIntosh) and the winning try scorer (Tony Watson) had a connection to Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwean/Sharks mantle was picked up and carried on by the likes of Adrian Garvey, Gary Teichman, Bob Skinstad and Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira!!!!!!!

Now you may think that there are not many names on this list but if you look closely at these names you will find that some of them played a major part in changing the face of Natal and Sharks rugby forever.

3. The Free State “Blikore” Connection

The connection to the “Blikore” (Free State/Cheetahs) must be the most fun.

With a whole host of Free State players moving to Natal during the 90’s Natal Sharks rugby was often called the Free State “B-team”. The only problem with that was that the so called “B-team” outperformed the “A-team” for most of the decade.

The likes of Vleis Visagie, Pieter Müller, André Joubert, Hentie Martens, Olie le Roux, Henry Honiball, A.J. Venter, Stephen Brink, Charl van Rensburg, Frans Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Andries Strauss and Paul Jordaan all crossed Van Reenens Pass to call the green green grass of Natal home.

Added to all of the above is a plethora of extremely talented local players that included Hugh Reece-Edwards, Jeremy Thompson, Dick Muir, Joel Stransky, Craig Jameson, Steve Atherton, Mark Andrews, Wayne Fyvie, Rob Kempson, Trevor Halstead, Craig Davison, Warren Britz, BJ Botha, Butch James, Deon Carstens, Etienne Fynn, Shaun Sowerby, Warren Brosnihan, Rudi Keil, John Smit, JP Pietersen, Ryan Kankowski, Johann Muller, Steven Sykes, Keegan Daniel, Bradley Barritt, Waylon Murray, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Alister Hargreaves, Craig Burden, Marcell Coetzee and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

So where does this leave Natal/”Banana Boys”/Sharks rugby? For me the culture/tradition of Natal rugby is being able to adapt with a willingness to learn from others (local as well as international). This has resulted in the Natal Sharks playing a brand of exciting running rugby with good ball retention and interplay between forwards and backs. The Natal Sharks team consists of solid, hard as nails tight forwards that can dominate their opponents; skilled, clever, hardworking loose forwards that can link with both the forward and the back and a backline with silky smooth skills and speed that can cut most defenses to shreds.

On the negative side it seems that the Sharks can only really perform when they’re the “under dogs”, not taking well to the “favorites” tag as they’re often able to slip-up in “big” games or against the “wooden spoonists”, resulting in them being called chokers.

At the heart of the successful team of the 90’s was lots and lots of hard work and once again that is what is required of this modern Sharks team to get back to what made the Sharks such a good and competitive team.

I can live with been called “the scaled down version of the French international rugby team” I just hope with all my heart that the international and scaled down versions put in the hard work and repay their supporters with some silverware.


  • André Joubert from Ladysmith KZN, Henry Honiball Bergville KZN. Only went to study at UOVS.

  • Comment 1, posted at 10.06.13 13:27:37 by Uli Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter
    Uli Boelie
  • Nice article JD.

    Another big name Vrystaater that played for the old Natal was De Wet Ras.

  • Comment 2, posted at 10.06.13 13:34:35 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Salmonoid the Subtle
  • Hentie Maartens, also a natal boy. As far as I’m concerned Andre Joubert, honiball and martens were stolen by free state and we rightfully got them back

  • Comment 3, posted at 10.06.13 13:47:06 by RuckingFun Reply

  • Also a lot of those local players aren’t too local, unless u consider coming though the academy as local??

  • Comment 4, posted at 10.06.13 13:48:20 by RuckingFun Reply

  • Mvovo not from KZN btw. Isn’t bosman from da vrystaat also?? Just asking

  • Comment 5, posted at 10.06.13 13:58:23 by Stiko85 Reply

  • Atherton,Andrews, carstens,smit, Jp pietersen, kanko, muller, Sykes, Daniel, mvovo and psdt all from outside natal

  • Comment 6, posted at 10.06.13 14:06:52 by RuckingFun Reply

  • @RuckingFun (Comment 6) : Atherton went to Pinetown Boys High…

  • Comment 7, posted at 10.06.13 14:11:10 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : ok got that one wrong, but he was still born in England

  • Comment 8, posted at 10.06.13 14:15:07 by RuckingFun Reply

  • @Stiko85 (Comment 5) : yes thanks I missed Bosman when compiling the list of Fre Staters. @RuckingFun (Comment 6) : for me a player is “local” if he played junior rugby for the Sharks or if he made his debut in “big” rugby for the Sharks. I don’t like using where you were born or at school as a measurement of from where you are as you move round and some of the big “rugby” schools get players from outside their own area. But in the end it’s only my opinion.

  • Comment 9, posted at 10.06.13 16:41:14 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
  • @JD (Comment 9) : I agree with your opinion, for what it’s worth

  • Comment 10, posted at 10.06.13 16:44:40 by robdylan Reply
    Competition Winner Administrator
  • @JD (Comment 9) : lol okay, from that point of view I can’t argue. Like rob, I’ll agree with u also

  • Comment 11, posted at 10.06.13 17:38:06 by Stiko85 Reply

  • Don’t the Marais Bro’s and Deysel also originate from the States. Deysel plyed Griffons u/19 and the Marais bro’s were schooled in Welkom.

  • Comment 12, posted at 11.06.13 07:28:56 by KingCheetah Reply

  • You can also add Reinach and Piet Lindeque to the Blikore list, even though Lindeque has re-discovered the light, and has left the dark side lol :mrgreen:

  • Comment 13, posted at 11.06.13 07:30:50 by KingCheetah Reply

  • @KingCheetah (Comment 12) : @KingCheetah (Comment 13) : The thing is that non of these players ever played a game for Free State. Deysel is from Virginia and came to the Sharks via the Lions and Marais bros were from Welkom, That makes the three Griffons. reinach and Lideque were signed direct from school and were playing junior rugby with the Sharks, for that matter of the five players only Deysel did not play junior rugby for the Sharks.

  • Comment 14, posted at 11.06.13 17:12:07 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
  • @JD (Comment 14) : Which just means that the Sharks have upped their poaching by poaching from Grade 7 now lol.

  • Comment 15, posted at 11.06.13 19:41:08 by KingCheetah Reply

  • @KingCheetah (Comment 15) : ja well yes hahahaha 😛 What’s next “forget about rhino poaching stop Cheetah poaching” 😈

  • Comment 16, posted at 11.06.13 20:40:25 by JD Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Administrator
  • @JD (Comment 16) : Lol, man, i wish they would cut me loose with enough rations and ammo. Immunity against prosecution, and I can go hunt some rhino poachers! MF, they operate with such impunity!

  • Comment 17, posted at 12.06.13 09:45:37 by KingCheetah Reply


Add Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.