Keeping up with the Sharks
Cape Town - It wasn’t a good season for the Sharks - their 11th place finish in Super Rugby way off the mark in terms of what fans have come to expect.
And, as always, when results do not go your way the pressure starts mounting.
That has been the case for both coach Gary Gold and CEO John Smit, who have taken their fair share of abuse from the rugby-loving public this season.
But, in an endeavour to get back to their best, the Sharks have opened their cheque book and secured the services of a number of new players.
The signings have been coming so thick and fast that it has been hard to keep up with all of them.
So... Sport24 has decided to give a breakdown of who the new faces at the Shark Tank are and when and how they will be used.
Age - 29
Position - Flank
Surely one of the more exciting acquisitions for the Sharks, Potgieter is an absolute beast of a man. He has been ever-present for the Waratahs for the last two Super Rugby seasons but returns to South Africa next year. Potgieter is about as physical as they come, which is good news for the Sharks given the departure of Willem Alberts. He will not be available for the Currie Cup, but will join the side ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Age - 26
Position - Lock
Having spent the last two seasons in James Horwill’s shadow at the Reds, McDuling has been capped just 12 times in Super Rugby. But Gold does rate him very highly, and the plus is that he can play as a loose forward too. The bad news is that McDuling has a history of knee injuries, but the good news is that he seems to have gotten over them. He will join the Sharks for the start of the Currie Cup season.
Age - 32
Position - Scrumhalf
One thing the Sharks clearly missed this season was experience in key positions, and they will get plenty of that in the form of Claassens. Stefan Ungerer performed admirably in Super Rugby despite being thrust into the deep end, and the availability of Claassens for the Currie Cup means that the Sharks are well stocked in that position.
Age - 31
Position - Fullback/flyhalf
Another experienced campaigner, Pietersen joins the Sharks for the Currie Cup. He can play at 10 and at 15, and is coming off a full Super Rugby season. With his contract running until the end of 2017, Pietersen will also be a factor in the Sharks’ Super Rugby challenge next year. He is still an exciting player on the ball, and his proven pedigree will give fans a sense of comfort looking ahead.
Age - 26
Position - Prop
As exciting a prospect as Oosthuizen is for the Sharks, he is currently in a race against time to get fit for the World Cup. Regardless of whether he wins that race or not, he should have recovered from his neck injury by the start of Super Rugby next year. And, with his contract running until the end of 2019, the Sharks will hope that those recurring injuries stay away.
Philip van der Walt
Age - 25
Position - Flank/eighthman
Another interesting buy for the Sharks, and another former Cheetah. Van der Walt cut his teeth in Bloemfontein before jetting off to France in 2014 where he played for Biarritz. But the lure of Super Rugby - and possibly future Springbok contention - has brought him back to SA. Van der Walt will be available for the start of the Currie Cup and he will be desperate to show everyone what he is capable of.
Age - 24
Position - Wing/centre
Mjekevu joins for his second stint at the Sharks. In 2013 he left Durban for France (Perpignan) after he openly criticised the Sharks’ coaching methods. But that’s all water under the bridge now, and the youngster will be hoping for a more enjoyable stay at King’s Park.
Willie le Roux
Age - 25
Position - Fullback
Another major signing for Gold, Le Roux also joins the Sharks from the Cheetahs. The fullback is very much in the Springbok World Cup mix, so he will only be available for his new franchise for Super Rugby. There is no doubt that Le Roux is a fantastic player, but the only concern for the Sharks will be that he has committed to a three-month stint in Japan (Eagles) after the World Cup and before Super Rugby.