Durban - Sharks wing Odwa Ndungane says his team are in a position to make a strong push for the Super Rugby title next season.
While the Bulls are the only South African franchise to lift the Super Rugby title in tournament history, the Sharks have come close. The Durban-based side have reached four finals (in 1996, 2001, 2007 and 2012), while they reached semi-finals (1997, 1998, 2008 and 2014) and playoffs (2011) on five occasions.
They were the only South African team to qualify for the Super Rugby playoffs this year after topping the South African conference and finishing third on the overall log.
While Ndungane admits it has been painful falling short, he believes the experience of playing in finals rugby will benefit the team in 2015.
“We now know what it takes to win Super Rugby playoffs and finals,” Ndungane told MyPlayers.co.za. “The Sharks are an ambitious team and we want to lift the trophy. I believe next year can be our year.
“We have a great mix of experience in the squad. Our young players are very talented and have done very well on the senior stage. Guys like Thomas du Toit and Andre Esterhuizen are exciting talents.
“This has seen my role change in recent seasons. I’m not only focused on my own job, but I’m helping the players around me by giving advice and helping them prepare for matches. It’s important to use your experience to help the upcoming players, which benefits the team.”
The Sharks have recently appointed former Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold as their new Director of Rugby, replacing Jake White, who suddenly left his post in September.
Ndungane, who worked with Gold when he played nine Tests and three tour games for the Springboks between 2008 and 2011, believes Gold has the ability to guide the Sharks in the right direction.
“It’s not easy when you lose a coach who has played a big role in the team, but Gary Gold has been a great appointment going forward,” said Ndungane. “From what I’ve seen before, he’s a very good coach with great player management abilities. I’m very confident he will get along very well with the players and coaches at the Sharks and build on the momentum we have already created, pursuing future success.”
Ndungane, along with his twin brother and Bulls wing Akona, have been playing professional rugby at the highest levels over the past 13 years. When asked about the secret for this consistent success, he had a simple answer.
“Hard work,” he explained. “You need to work hard at training and give your all during the game if you want to perform at the highest level. It takes more than talent to be consistent. At times, it’s not easy, but if you have a good work ethic, you’ll do well. That’s something I always tell the youngsters coming through.”
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