A culture shock

Written by Pierre McLeod (pierre_mackie)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 3 Nov 2015 at 10:11
Tagged with : , , , , ,

A lot has been said about the Sharks culture or the lack there of in recent months after a dismal Super Rugby and Currie Cup season. A lot has been said about the group of players and questions asked about whether they understand the culture of Sharks Rugby.

Questions have also been asked about the Sharks’ latest recruits; it’s been said that they are mercenaries, as pointed out by a tweet from Ollie le Roux directed at the latest Sharks signing, Chiliboy Ralepelle.

“@OllieLeRoux: @StefanT15 @sharksworld @Ruann7 @GaryGoldrugbyiq another mercenary that does not understand Shark culture…”

Now, it would probably be unfair to paint all players with the same brush when it comes to understanding the Sharks culture.

Sharks culture, is it a mythical gesture or is there really such a thing and if there is what is it? To quote a recent tweet from former Sharks captain Stefan Terblanche: “Sharks Culture something special hard to describe.”

Sharks culture is synonymous with the “glory years” of the ’90s. Legendary coach Ian McIntosh along with a group of players which are too many to name started a special thing in 1990 when they won the their first Currie Cup trophy against Northern Transvaal in Pretoria. Could this have been the start of the notorious “culture”?

Not only did McIntosh create a culture that attracted players like Henry Honiball, Andre Joubert, Ollie le Roux and Pieter Muller, but he also managed to create a winning culture amongst the Banana Boys as they won their second Currie Cup trophy in 1992. In 1993, Natal played in their third final, but lost to Transvaal in Durban.

In 1995 the Banana Boys were rebranded as the Sharks and the culture that had been created over the last four years welcomed the likes of Mark Andrews, Adrian Garvey, Cabous van der Westhuizen, Kevin Putt, James Small and even French Internationals Olivier Roumat and Thierry Lacroix. The newly branded Sharks also won their third trophy at their fourth attempt.

The winning culture continued with an unbeaten season in 1996 when the Sharks won back-to-back trophies, but not only did they enjoy Currie Cup glory they also played in the Super 12 final. Despite losing against the Auckland Blues, James Small finished on top of the try scorers list followed by fellow Sharks team mate Andre Joubert. They also reached the Super Rugby semi-final in 1997 and 1998. The Sharks finished the ’90s with their sixth Currie Cup final, but they were unable to give coach McIntosh, captain Gary Teichmann, Joubert and Honiball a favourable farewell.

It’s been said that the current Sharks squad does not have enough local players that were schooled in KwaZulu-Natal and does not know and understand the culture and honour of what it means to play in the “Black and White” jersey like the players from yesteryear. Interestingly, none of the above mentioned players were born and bred in Durban, yet they understood what it meant to wear the jersey with pride and to leave their blood, sweat and tears on the field as they play for the union and the fans.

For the Sharks and their faithful fans they had to wait twelve years to see another successful Currie Cup campaign, despite playing in the 2000, 2001 and 2003 finals. They also made the Super Rugby semi-final in 2008 and again under a non Durbanite coach in John Plumtree. The new era under Plumtree also came new Sharks heros in Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockott, Beast Mtawarira, JP Pietersen, Bismarck du Plessis, Keegan Daniel and Ryan Kankowski along with another French International in Frederic Michalak.

Plumtree brought joy back to the Sharks fans as they reclaimed the Currie Cup in 2010, they qualified again for the 2011 final but lost to the Lions at Ellis Park. Interestingly (again), none of the above mentioned players where born and bred in Durban, yet they understood what it meant to wear the jersey with pride and to leave their blood, sweat and tears on the field as they play for the union and the fans.

Seeing that most of the Sharks’ success is based on non-Durbanites, I took the opportunity to ask the robust on-loan flanker Renaldo Bothma what it meant for him to play for the Sharks.

As a junior he played his rugby in Durban and fell in love with the culture created by the public and the style of rugby being played.

“Because of the brands success it has always been a desire to play for the Sharks, and when the opportunity came along it wasn’t a difficult decision to make”

“I think Natal Rugby has come along away. They have produced a lot of legends, and it just shows the union’s ability to produce world class players.”

Bothma added that the time is now for a new generation of players. “The Sharks have had a great bunch of players over the last couple of years and even though they willl be missed the time has come to move on.”

“I think it’s the perfect time to build another team like that over the next few years and that is exactly what is busy happening. I am very excited about the next couple of years at the Sharks.”

“Every union undergoes success and failure, that’s life. Every union goes through ups and downs and that is unfortunately the time things don’t always goes as plan, but in the end the bigger picture will always prevail.”

It seems like this Sharks culture everyone is refering to is largely something that’s been created by their loyal and passionate “black and white nothing else matters”, “Sharks forever” fans. The fans are the ones that have been carrying the team over the last twenty five years.

In closing Bothma added, “It’s our responsibility as players to produce the goods on the field, and to show the supporters why they love supporting the Sharks,” and, “for me personally, it’s an honour to run onto that beautiful stadium and to play in front of the loyal fans.”

The best way for players to honour the Sharks Rugby culture is respect the players that have been there before them, respect the jersey and last but not least respect the passionate supporters that live for the Sharks brand.


  • That sounds promisingly as if Bothma is interested in staying…

  • Comment 1, posted at 03.11.15 10:29:18 by pastorshark Reply
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  • so my major issue with what Le Roux said was the implication that all “foreigners” to the Sharks are mercenaries. Kind of hypocritical, I thought and interesting too, given the above analysis…. how many of the “legends” are truly home grown? Hardly any. Se what’s the difference between a foreign mercenary and a foreign legend?

  • Comment 2, posted at 03.11.15 10:31:29 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 2) : Rob if I remember correctly Le Roux left the Sharks with a bit of a bitter taste, he since has never really had anything good to say about the Sharks. Thus I never take anything seriously that he has to say.

  • Comment 3, posted at 03.11.15 10:44:15 by sharks_lover Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 2) : Two questions,is home grown necessarily home born, and is a foreign legend playing away from his home territory not a mercenary by definition.
    Then anyone who ever had anything to do with Ollie le Roux will testify to the fact that he was the quintessential rugby mercenary.Hell that guy would charge little kids for his signature if he could.

  • Comment 4, posted at 03.11.15 10:45:44 by The hound Reply
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  • Wow!!! I am clapping my hands. Best article I have read in a very long time. Don’t want to mess up your article so will only add one small piece…culture comes from the top down and the HC has a big role to play in that. If your coach believe that he’s the best, that he is a winner, and shows you this through his coaching, strategies, tactics, words, his man management, communication etc… The players start believing and buying into that and the bigger picture. Immediately you have given birth to a culture. A way of thinking a way of doing things. Look at Cheika.

  • Comment 5, posted at 03.11.15 10:48:07 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • @GreatSharksays (Comment 5) : thanks 😉

  • Comment 6, posted at 03.11.15 11:03:56 by pierre_mackie Reply
  • @pierre_mackie (Comment 6) : :mrgreen: 😆

  • Comment 7, posted at 03.11.15 11:10:16 by sharks_lover Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 2) : but not to forget the local born and bred players that also contributed over the years

  • Comment 8, posted at 03.11.15 11:11:05 by pierre_mackie Reply
  • A lot of the guys mentioned in this article only played for the Sharks in SA.

    Basically to me, it has to be a guy like Thomas du Toit that always wanted to play for the Sharks.

    I know what Olli is trying to say. Is any of the guys you mentioned not Sharks guys, through and through?

    A guy like PSTD maybe should never have been involved with the Sharks, since his heart was clearly not in it. I’m not saying, don’t get a couple of outside guys, but the core should be guys that’s been supporting the Sharks all their life. That’s how I feel about it anyway.

  • Comment 9, posted at 03.11.15 11:11:20 by Letgo Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 2) : Le Roux is bitter and never had anything nice to say about Sharks rugby. He felt he deserved more from the Sharks at the end and has bad mouthed them ever since. I never take anything he says seriously.

  • Comment 10, posted at 03.11.15 11:15:23 by lostfish Reply
    Valued Sharksworld Supporter Competition Winner
  • I have no problem with” rugby mercenaries” some of the best rugby played for the Sharks came from guys the likes of Murray Mexted,Butcher,Roumat,le Croix,Michelak ,Menendez,and guys who came to the Sharks late in their careers, like Stephan Terreblannhe,Percy Montgomery, guys who came in the middle of their careers like,Alberts,A.J Venter,Deysel,Small,Muller,Snyman,as well as guys who came from out of the province but grew at the Sharks like,Andrews,Kockert,Daniel,Kanowski .
    Then there were the Natal born that got away like Bakkies Botha

  • Comment 11, posted at 03.11.15 11:23:37 by The hound Reply
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  • Bothma must be fishing for, or has already got an extended Sharks contract. Good. He is also the type of guy that can rekindle the “culture” and take it forward with the new guys under a coach that also knows and understands that culture.

  • Comment 12, posted at 03.11.15 11:24:08 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @The hound (Comment 11) : Did you see the Sharkbite insert where they got hold of some of the Sharks Legends – it was clear from the few guys they spoke to of their love and respect for the Sharks, guys like Mendez and Roumat – to them it was, and still is family. And then there was Plum, who despite of what happened to him at the Sharks, had sympathy for the hard times the Sharks were going through but throughout spoke about “we and us” when referring to the Sharks. He still sees himself as a Shark, and that says alot.

  • Comment 13, posted at 03.11.15 11:29:49 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • Culture is an interesting thing and i also think it means different thing to different people. I think things such as stability, trust and motivation among a group breeds a good culture. A good culture also isnt developed over a month…well not a sustainable one anyway.It takes time and work…with both ups and downs.

  • Comment 14, posted at 03.11.15 11:48:37 by SheldonK Reply

  • @The hound (Comment 4) : @lostfish (Comment 10) : What was Ollie’s issue with Natal when he left?

    Always got the feeling he doesn’t like the Sharks but not sure why.

  • Comment 15, posted at 03.11.15 12:01:18 by ChrisS Reply
  • @The hound (Comment 11) : Bakkies and Jacques du Plessis.

  • Comment 16, posted at 03.11.15 12:06:21 by ChrisS Reply
  • The one thing that made that 1990 victory attract me to become a Sharks fan (and rugby fan) was the sense that they represented the anti-establishment – the Sharks had beaten a team that embraced everything I disliked about SA (my perception as a 7-year old, growing up in Pretoria, so not saying it is true, but that was my perception).

    So to me, the Sharks culture was a mix between the rebels of SA rugby combined with professionalism (the kind of professionalism that does not distinguish between players and fans born in Natal and those not born in Natal)…

    What with Cabous (the “takhaar”) and James Small embodying the rebels of the SA rugby scene, contrasted by the Rolls Royce of fullbacks…with Ian Mac able to make this band of misfits work together as a well oiled machine.

    Ollie clearly never really got this side of the Sharks culture. 🙄

  • Comment 17, posted at 03.11.15 12:10:12 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 17) : you have just summed it up 1000%.

    And what you say about the “rebel” thing is just that. I also could never identify with the Bulls despite living in Pretoria at the time and Natal was just everything that the Bulls weren’t.

  • Comment 18, posted at 03.11.15 12:30:40 by robdylan Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 17) : Is what you speak of not a similar situation to the Lions presently?

  • Comment 19, posted at 03.11.15 12:43:03 by SheldonK Reply

  • Not a lot of people like Ollie. From what I’ve read about him in JS’s biography, I won’t take anything he says seriously. He bullied the younger players and tried to stir where he could. If he sees himself as ‘homegrown’, I would rather take a couple of willing mercenaries any day

  • Comment 20, posted at 03.11.15 12:43:14 by HeinF Reply

  • @robdylan (Comment 18) : @HeinF (Comment 20) : What is his issue with the Sharks?

    WHat happened when he left or what made him leave?

  • Comment 21, posted at 03.11.15 13:03:59 by ChrisS Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 2) : and he was schooled and played where? So he also was a mercenary!!!

  • Comment 22, posted at 03.11.15 13:06:52 by JD Reply
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  • I am not completely sure,but think I remeber reading the sharks didn’t offer him another contract when he though he still deserved one, but I am not 100% sure about my memory on this 😉

  • Comment 23, posted at 03.11.15 13:08:16 by HeinF Reply

  • To me Sharks Culture is that of underdog or outsider. When do we play at our best? Backs against the wall! When we have to fight to win. Unfortunately, that basically means the chips must be down always if the coach wants the team to perform to the best of their ability. Jake White attempted to create this mentality, but it blew up in his face, as it clashed with the laid-back lifestyle of KZN. A bit of a catch 22.

  • Comment 24, posted at 03.11.15 13:11:37 by bokbok Reply

  • @HeinF (Comment 23) : Thanks. Sounds plausible.

  • Comment 25, posted at 03.11.15 13:13:54 by ChrisS Reply
  • @robdylan (Comment 18) : being a Sharks is in your blood and not in where you were born, schooled or live!!!!!!!
    Great article Rob!!!!

  • Comment 26, posted at 03.11.15 13:15:02 by JD Reply
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  • @JD (Comment 26) : thanks, but I didn’t write it 🙂

  • Comment 27, posted at 03.11.15 13:17:47 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 27) : shit ja sorry @pierre_mackie great article!!!

  • Comment 28, posted at 03.11.15 13:22:54 by JD Reply
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  • @sharks_lover (Comment 3) : Does Ollie have anything good to say about anyone. Whenever I see something that Ollie said, it’s invariably negative.

  • Comment 29, posted at 03.11.15 13:27:08 by KingCheetah Reply

  • listening to John Mitchell on the A.B’S the other night and his comment that the new triangular hakka set up was completely against the A.B ‘s ethos.He rightfully said it positioned them in a hierarchical order,which was totally against their culture
    The A.B’s are a team first and individuals second ,everyone just knows his place.The great Sharks teams have always operated like that ,the kak ones haven’t.
    That was the difference to other South African teams which operate on an almost military hierarchical system.The Bulls especially operate this way.
    I feel that a lot of the problems Jake had at the Sharks was he didn’t believe in the hierarchy that had taken control of the Sharks,he lost out to it.

  • Comment 30, posted at 03.11.15 13:27:22 by The hound Reply
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  • @GreatSharksays (Comment 5) : I had the pleasure of meeting Jannie Putter recently. He is the author of quite a few books, and is interestingly enough the “mental” coach of the Lions. He told us at the camp how the Lions players and coaches came to him, and gave hi what they believed should be their mission statement. He then formulated it into a powerful daily testimonial, or a mantra if you wish, which the players and coaches affirm daily. A lot of what he said, shows in the way the Lions play.

  • Comment 31, posted at 03.11.15 13:30:24 by KingCheetah Reply

  • @The hound (Comment 11) : And Tommy Lawton

  • Comment 32, posted at 03.11.15 13:32:18 by KingCheetah Reply

  • @JD (Comment 22) : Jip Ollie and Jannie came from the Cheetahs. Pot, kettle thing thing….. Ollie was part of the powerful Cheetahs scrum at the time with Os du Randt, Naka Drotsky and I think Daan Human

  • Comment 33, posted at 03.11.15 13:40:04 by KingCheetah Reply

  • @KingCheetah (Comment 33) : Ollie’s high school team,had him,Nakka,Reuben Kruger,Pieter Muller,Henrich Fulls, and was captained by Hansie Cronje.
    He moved to the Sharks straight from school and was capped for the Boks at 19 youngest Bok prop ever.He was signed on one of the first professional contracts,and it was no coincidence that he chose the Sharks over the Free State as it was then.Sharks gave him more money.He was probably the very first South African rugby mercenary.
    Ian Mac then did something quite revolutionary with him,he invented the super sub.
    Up until then you only subbed if it was a medical necessity.Oliie became a serial 15 minute man.
    Of his 54 Bok caps most of them were as a sub.He had more bench time than Lawrence Sepakka and Shimange put together

  • Comment 34, posted at 03.11.15 13:52:06 by The hound Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 17) : @robdylan (Comment 18) : Oh yes! Born in Pretoria, grew up in Pretoria, still living in Pretoria, and would NEVER support Bulls. The rebel in me said NO. And though I must admit, it started off just to piss off my friends and family to support the Sharks, I fell in love with them. For how they played, what they stood for. All the rebels, all the misfits. I knew then that this was the team I would support always.

  • Comment 35, posted at 03.11.15 13:55:26 by Another Nick Reply

    Another Nick
  • @SheldonK (Comment 19) : Damnit…I worked so hard to put that thought out of my mind – then you go and reiterate it. 😉

  • Comment 36, posted at 03.11.15 14:05:56 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @KingCheetah (Comment 31) : Now that’s culture. Having a set of values that everyone believes in and has bought into. Interpreting each value and living it out everyday. The point is a culture can be created. Successful team have a common culture. Get the culture right and play a brand that Natalians and Sharks identify with.

  • Comment 37, posted at 03.11.15 14:30:30 by GreatSharksays Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 36) : @Another Nick (Comment 35) : Ok you 2 Gautengers, report for duty over here http://www.sharksworld.co.za/2015/11/03/joburg-readers-sharksworld-needs-you/. Rob needs you.

  • Comment 38, posted at 03.11.15 14:44:06 by Salmonoid the Subtle Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 36) : It rings very true though. Wonder how the Liosn will cope when they are consistently the favourites with that weight of expectation?

  • Comment 39, posted at 03.11.15 14:59:59 by SheldonK Reply

  • @JD (Comment 28) : thanks JD

  • Comment 40, posted at 03.11.15 16:15:06 by pierre_mackie Reply
  • @Salmonoid the Subtle (Comment 38) : I have since been freed from that prison and currently reside along the coast of Natal. 😉

  • Comment 41, posted at 03.11.15 16:30:18 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @KingCheetah (Comment 31) : Jannie Putter used to be at Bulls ………sjoe what happened there !?

  • Comment 42, posted at 03.11.15 20:03:37 by The Brand Reply

  • Good article mate ,but really all the romantic dillusions aside,one of the greatest franchises but also one of the greatest chokers around,no SR trophy,and that is why in my view a culture change is neede at the Sharks

  • Comment 43, posted at 03.11.15 20:35:17 by benji Reply
    Friend of Sharksworld
  • Great great article,I also identify with the whole misfit rebel theme,born in the Freestate,growing up in the Western Cape and settling on the West Coast,only ever been to Durban a handful of times and I breath Sharks!Since Cabous,James Small,Jouba,Honiball and the lot,I fell in love with the rugby they played,how they treated their fans,got the pleasure of meeting them after a match against SWD and always humble,never with attitude,staying close to the fans….Asked Joost for a photo and gave his friend this bitchy look,told him to shove it,never get that type of attitude from the Sharks!
    While a student,sent 2 Sharks jerseys I bought on the street,so obviously fake,with Johan Muller’s dad.They where nice enough to sign both fake jerseys for us,the whole 2007 squad!Luckily since I’ve been able to buy the real deals!I guess humility and kindness falls under that blanket of Sharks Culture to me.

  • Comment 44, posted at 03.11.15 20:53:15 by BarendL Reply
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  • @BarendL (Comment 44) : Nice comment…

  • Comment 45, posted at 04.11.15 07:04:34 by pastorshark Reply
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  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 41) : Where on the Coast do you live?

  • Comment 46, posted at 04.11.15 08:06:02 by StevieS Reply
  • @StevieS (Comment 46) : The salt-tap-water south coast.

  • Comment 47, posted at 04.11.15 08:33:18 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 47) : We’re Tweni boys. Heard the Umzimkulu had dried up.

    Which part of the Coast are you from?

  • Comment 48, posted at 04.11.15 09:21:12 by ChrisS Reply
  • @ChrisS (Comment 48) : Currently staying in Shelly (and have been for the past 11years), but originally from Pretoria….

    The water issue is wreaking havoc….when you go to look for water in the shops, it resembles the apocalypse – everyone is out of stock.

  • Comment 49, posted at 04.11.15 09:36:34 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 49) : Great! Looks like we might have to make alternate plans for the December holidays!

    Good choice to move to the Coast…nothing like it! :mrgreen:

  • Comment 50, posted at 06.11.15 08:04:18 by ChrisS Reply
  • @FireTheLooser (Comment 49) : Sad to hear. Always loved to drive down there when on holiday, lovely part of the country!!!
    Hope it rains soon so that your water issues (and the rest of the country) is sorted!!!!!!
    @ChrisS (Comment 50) : if you go down for the holidays please take some water for our friend in Shelly!! 😈

  • Comment 51, posted at 06.11.15 08:30:01 by JD Reply
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