Durban - The defending champion Sharks are confident they can do well in the upcoming Currie Cup despite losing key players to the Springboks.
The Sharks, missing eight players for much or all of the Currie Cup while the Springboks do battle in the Rugby Championship, will look to inject new blood in the competition while remaining competitive as well.
The Durbanites will get the defence of their title under way with a tricky fixture against Griquas in Kimberley this weekend.
“We’re really looking forward to the challenge,” head coach Brad MacLeod-Henderson told Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.
“We’re excited about the campaign ahead; it’s a tough competition, back-to-back week after week and a couple of our competitors have had a fair bit more time to prepare than us, but that’s one of the consequences of being the most successful South African franchise in the Super Rugby competition this year. There will be a few new exciting faces out there led by a new captain.”
With loose-forward Tera Mtembu installed as the new leader for 2014, his coach is happy to have the leadership role confirmed on the young player.
“Tera is an outstanding rugby player and as a coach, you want to be sure that the person you’re selecting as your captain is certain of his position in the starting line-up every week and Tera’s performances definitely warrant that.
“He’s a young guy with a bright future, I’m looking forward to working with him as coach and the team are looking forward to working with him.”
Mtembu doesn’t just have his coach’s confidence in him, but that of his team-mates too.
“We’ve chatted to the players and they’re all excited for Tera,” says Macleod-Henderson. “They’re fantastic individuals and we know Tera will have their full support. This is going to be a young squad but there are some old heads who have had leadership roles in the past who can help him out.”
Assessing the new format and new teams that will be competing this year, he explains: “It’s going to be interesting, there are eight teams in the Currie Cup now, most people are happy with that. EP are back and making great strides. The Pumas have also shown their ability, winning the promotion-relegation round last year and would have played in the top six had the format remained the same. They’re doing some good things, and then Griquas are traditionally a tough nut, they’re back in and that gives you the big five unions and those three.
“The Currie Cup is a fantastic competition with heaps of history. It has a special place in all South African rugby supporters’ hearts. We’re looking forward to it, it’s a short, sharp competition and we’re going to go out there and give it a full go.”