Cape Town - For a couple of weeks now, Sharks coach Robert du Preez has been vocal on wanting to find a solution for his extended squad of players not playing any competitive rugby.
In year's past, the Vodacom Cup had run over roughly the same period as the Super Rugby season, giving franchises an opportunity to ensure that their fringe players were playing high-level rugby throughout the Super Rugby year.
It keeps the players match-fit, keeps them motivated and ultimately ensures that, if they are called upon, they will be in peak physical condition if needed for Super Rugby duty.
But, since the death of the Vodacom Cup in 2015, there has been no secondary tournament in the early weeks of Super Rugby.
Last year, a Currie Cup qualification tournament ran from April 9 - July 26 while this year the new SuperSport Rugby Challenge is set to run from April 22 - July 16.
The SuperSport Challenge looks exciting on the surface - 15 teams split into three geographically determined 'sections' into three groups of five.
Home and away fixtures in those groups make for a total of 10 matches each before the quarter-finals.
It is a product that looks to have some potential, but until it gets going, the Super Rugby franchises are made to look after extended squads of 45-plus players with half of them sitting on the sidelines every weekend.
"Those guys in the
greater squad don’t get game time and that’s a problem," Du Preez said.
"They’re going to have
to do something in South African rugby to fix that.
"If we play the SuperSport Rugby Challenge concurrently with Super Rugby, that would make sense to me so
that we get the guys who are on the fringes getting proper game time.
been a big frustration of mine and also for the players."
The Sharks are next in action when they travel to Bloemfontein for a date with the Cheetahs on Saturday. Kick-off is at 17:15.
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (captain), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Ox Nche
Substitutes: 16 Elandre Huggett, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Rayno Benjamin/Clinton Swart
15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu (captain), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Garth April