Saluting some bold selections

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 6 Aug 2015 at 10:58
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I think I speak for just about everyone here when I say that the Sharks team selected for tomorrow night’s Currie Cup opener certainly has raised the excitement levels. With a decent mix of expected selections and a few genuine surprises, there’s a definite sense that we could see something rather special from the Sharks this campaign.

Starting up front, the tight five is pretty much as we’d expect it to be, with the experienced Dale Chadwick (earning his 43rd Currie Cup cap) and Lourens Adriaanse the right men to secure the scrum platform. Monde Hadebe gets a chance to start for only the fifth time, with injuries to Kyle Cooper and Franco Marais opening the door for him. He’s an exciting ball player with a quick brain, but on a cold night in Nelspruit, it will be his basics that come under scrutiny. If ever there was an opportunity for a player to grasp an opportunity with both hands, this is that opportunity for Monde.

I cannot over-emphasis just what a good call it is to stick with Marco Wentzel as captain. As the elder statesman in the side (and a few years older than even some of the refs in this competition), Wentzel brings a level of calm and gravitas to proceedings and adds brilliant referee and game management to his plethora of lineout skills. With his position at 5 lock unlikely to come under threat in the squad, Gary Gold will be looking to Wentzel as a mainstay in this team and could do worse than to use his captain’s lineout prowess as a key component of the attacking game this campaign.

It’s the selection of Etienne Oosthuizen at 4, though, that really ticks a big box for me. It’s been a tricky year for the big man, played more often in the back row than at lock and I genuinely feel we’ve not done his development all that much good in the process. Kudos to Gold for being prepared to back the youngsters he has at loose forward and letting Ettas play in the position that fits him best. Oosthuizen has the skills and attitude to become a Bok in a position where, outside Eben Etzebeth, there is little depth in South African rugby. I’m looking forward to a massive Currie Cup from him.

The loose trio is pretty much a complete unknown – and this is definitely uncharted territory for the Sharks, who have come to depend on a number of stalwarts in the back row over the years and are now without nearly all of them for this campaign. Khaya Majola – a player who did some good things in Super Rugby – earns just his second start (and sixth cap overall at this level) – while Jean-Luc du Preez and Philip van der Walt are both making their Sharks debuts. Van der Walt, at least, has 26 caps for the Cheetahs (as well as a decent amount of Super Rugby experience) and will need to provide leadership to the other two – all eyes, one feels, will be on du Preez though as he looks to prove that age-group pedigree does indeed translate to effectiveness on the senior stage. Brother Daniel will enjoy a similar opportunity in the second half.

The halfback selection, again, is bold and exciting. It would have been very easy to back the experienced pair of Michael Claassens and Joe Pietersen, but you feel that a job was started with Stefan Ungerer and Lionel Cronje in Super Rugby and that Gold wants to see that work through. Pairing Cronje with the equally enterprising Heimar Williams is just gravy and raises the very real possibility that we could see creative play from the Sharks’ backs, rather than simply the sort of physical dominance one would get if Andre Esterhuizen had been picked at 12. I’m glad, though, that Esterhuizen is there too, albeit in an unexpected position. That said, he did spend a few games at wing in Super Rugby after coming on as early injury replacement for Odwa Ndungane and certainly presents a formidable strike running option for Ungerer or Cronje to invoke, down the blind side or on the cutback. Esterhuizen’s major strength is defensive dominance, of course, so I would expect he’d be asked to assist Williams in this role depending on the game situation.

Pietersen is the “safe pair of hands” in an otherwise very young outside back division, where much is expected of the combination of Wandi Mjekevu and S’bura Sithole. Mjekevu is also making his Currie Cup debut and having been somewhat surprisingly picked ahead of Paul Jordaan, will also have a great opportunity to cement his place. Sithole, one of the form players in Super Rugby, will look to just keep doing what was doing, in the process adding significantly to his career try tally of 8 in 30 Currie Cup games.

It’s easy, of course, to get excited about a team on paper and we’ve seen before how our pre-match expectations often fail to materialise on grass – particularly the cold, rock-hard grass of a foreign stadium on a winter’s evening, with a hostile crowd baying for “big union blood”. I’m fully expecting the Sharks to win this game, but even if they don’t, we owe it to them to continue to back the decision to back exciting young talent for this Currie cup campaign. Even if we don’t get the short-term results we’re looking for, the long-term gains will be worth it.


  • Good article Rob. I agree we must back our boys. Can’t make an omlette without breaking some eggs.

    Win or lose the noises coming out of the Sharks camp are the right ones.

  • Comment 1, posted at 06.08.15 11:09:00 by StevieS Reply
  • Sharks certainly have the quality on paper to beat the Pumas but as we all know and as Rob has pointed out, the Pumas are an altogether different beast in Nelspruit. I’m afraid Faf will also be out to prove a point to the Bok coaches so I expect him to be a handful.

    A tough start to the CC campaign always seems to do the Sharks some good though so in my mind this a rare win/win scenario for the union. Kudos then to Gold for using the opportunity to make some bold selections instead of opting to play it safe. Kick for the corners boys!

  • Comment 2, posted at 06.08.15 11:29:46 by vanmartin Reply
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  • We have a god side, how well they gel im not sure. We also need to curb those nasty handling errors that creep up in CC time. Pumas away is a very tough assignment- however a win will go a long way to boosting this team.

  • Comment 3, posted at 06.08.15 11:34:47 by SheldonK Reply

  • I agree and fully support them. I actually have some hope again.

  • Comment 4, posted at 06.08.15 11:34:53 by JarsonX Reply
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  • Great article! Thanks, Rob

  • Comment 5, posted at 06.08.15 11:38:43 by Den Reply

  • A cold night in Nelspruit? the temp should be at a comfy 20 degrees. Maybe you haven’t been to Nelspruit much, but cold rarely is an apt description.

    It is going to be a cracker to open the CC though. In this case I will support the Pumas, simply because I lived in Nelspruit for 18 years, and my sons still do.
    Go Puuuuuumas!!

  • Comment 6, posted at 06.08.15 11:57:00 by KingCheetah Reply

  • @KingCheetah (Comment 6) : maybe I’m confusing Nelspruit with Witbank? Does it not get cold there? I remember some pretty chilly Lowveld evenings….

  • Comment 7, posted at 06.08.15 12:24:09 by robdylan Reply
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  • Great article. The mix of the backline seems to have got a lot of criticism – for me, Sithole is an out-and-out winger and its great he’s getting a run there – and a spell on the wing might well work wonders in terms of bringing all of Esterhuizen’s potential together – I still think the guy we saw in his first Currie Cup season is a guy worth investing in. 18 months ago, he was a hailed as a huge talent and people were worried about losing him to WP – now it seems like people have given up on him.

  • Comment 8, posted at 06.08.15 12:25:33 by JR Reply

  • @KingCheetah (Comment 6) : ok, you are right.

    Weather forecast is around 20 degrees at 6pm tomorrow.

    I feel better now.

  • Comment 9, posted at 06.08.15 12:25:52 by robdylan Reply
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  • Goooooooooo!!!!!!!!SHARKS!!!!!!!!

  • Comment 10, posted at 06.08.15 12:27:59 by Leon Schrenk Reply

  • This is a cracking game to start off this years 2015 CC. I expect a massive battle up front – we will have dominance in the loose forward trio – watch Van Der Walt, he is a great player and will be well supported by Du Preez. If I am totally honest, I am not Majola’s biggest fan, but he can change my mind tomorrow night.

    In the backs, the Pumas 12/13 like to run straight lines and dominate in their opposition physically (warm up game against WP) and this is where I would have liked to see Esterhuizen at 12, to front up to that challenge.

    All in all, a great game to look forward to.

  • Comment 11, posted at 06.08.15 12:54:10 by Vonno13 Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 7) : Witbank gets fracking cold, so I think you did. Nelspruit rarely gets really cold.
    @Vonno13 (Comment 11) : Yes, vd Walt is a great player. Not flashy like Whitely, but he gets through a mountain of graft, and links well with the backs.

  • Comment 12, posted at 06.08.15 13:10:16 by KingCheetah Reply

  • This is a good team and it has the potential to get a helluva lot better,Lewies,Jordaan,Cooper,can only make this side better.
    I am particularily happy that Gold didn’t automatically turn to Claasens ,at the expense of Ungerer,maybe he learnt something from his disastrous recycling of the old Saracens Botha and Stevens.These older guys have played their rugby and come home for a few more games on a soft field ,and aren’t neccessarily going to break any bones proving that they still can play.
    Nice to have Classens as back up but thats what he must remain.
    van der Walt is a different story,and had he been playing for the Bulls or Stormers he would have been in G and G on Saturday. He will be another Bartman,A.j,Alberts,Deysel.

  • Comment 13, posted at 06.08.15 13:57:01 by The hound Reply
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    The hound
  • Agreed 100% Rob

  • Comment 14, posted at 06.08.15 14:02:51 by Sharkfinn Reply

  • So I’m guessing there probably won’t be any decent coverage of this match either?

  • Comment 15, posted at 06.08.15 14:15:02 by coolfusion Reply

  • I must say I am glad Ungerer is getting some serious backing here. Also glad we have Claasens especially after world cup. To give us options if Reinach doesn’t shape. He might even be the guy to guide Cobus back to form. Now just get us Craig Burden and we will be ok. Lood de Jager for good measure.

  • Comment 16, posted at 06.08.15 14:20:19 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 15) : what do you mean? It’s on TV here, so I’m assuming it will be in SA too

  • Comment 17, posted at 06.08.15 14:22:35 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 17) : supersport is showing it

  • Comment 18, posted at 06.08.15 14:32:58 by Pokkel Reply
    Friend of SharksworldCompetition Winner Author
  • @robdylan (Comment 17) : Nah I mean streaming. Should have been specific.

  • Comment 19, posted at 06.08.15 14:37:51 by coolfusion Reply

  • I officially don’t support dstv anymore so…are there streaming links elsewhere?

  • Comment 20, posted at 06.08.15 15:43:18 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 20) : haha “don’t support”

    In other words, you’ve decided to boycott PAYING for their content. Seeing as they’re the only ones covering the game, you’re clearly not intending to boycott ACCESSING their content.

  • Comment 21, posted at 06.08.15 15:45:56 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 21) : Well if you want to get technical.

  • Comment 22, posted at 06.08.15 15:47:26 by coolfusion Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 21) : Also I am boycotting their system of holding rugby fans to ransom. Why if I only care about specific content can I not just get and pay for that content? They have been milking me for 7 years this way.

  • Comment 23, posted at 06.08.15 15:50:05 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 23) : you’re right. You should get them back by only stealing the content you want to steal, not all of it šŸ™‚

  • Comment 24, posted at 06.08.15 16:19:12 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 24) : Exactly. Thanks for validating my plan Rob! I wasn’t sure till just now. ; )

  • Comment 25, posted at 06.08.15 16:25:21 by coolfusion Reply

  • This is for all those years of Kardashian rubbish..and reality shows…and cougar town…and idols ..and he’ll probably 90% of what they aired…then sadistic ally repeated and funny enough never lose signal in the middle of….

  • Comment 26, posted at 06.08.15 16:29:52 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 26) : Sweet, sophisticated signal loss – submitted the post before it cut you off in mid typing. šŸ˜‰ :mrgreen: šŸ˜›

  • Comment 27, posted at 06.08.15 16:35:29 by Dancing Bear Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
    Dancing Bear
  • @Dancing Bear (Comment 27) : Like dstv signal loss. Military precision just when the sharks win a turnover in front of the bulls line in a super rugby final with scores tied and 1 minute on the clock. And yet never during a Kardashian pimp my daughter marathon…go figure

  • Comment 28, posted at 06.08.15 16:53:24 by coolfusion Reply

  • @coolfusion (Comment 28) : :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  • Comment 29, posted at 06.08.15 16:59:40 by Dancing Bear Reply
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    Dancing Bear
  • @coolfusion (Comment 20) : Don’t feel guilty. If a company owns the rights to a sport and then doesn’t provide a means of access for those, who love and support it, then fuck them.

  • Comment 30, posted at 07.08.15 10:13:09 by Spirit of Rugby Reply
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    Spirit of Rugby
  • Agree with coolfusion .. I use this one instead

  • Comment 31, posted at 18.03.17 05:12:46 by Listlar Reply


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