Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer
Cape Town - These
are the reasons why I believe the Sharks - something many would consider
overdue if so - COULD illuminate Super Rugby 2019:
Good chance of early traction
terms of the slog involved (some 13 500km), starting your Super Rugby campaign
in Tokyo may not represent a dream state of affairs.
away the long-haul travel factor, and the Sharks cannot have major reason to
bemoan kicking off against the modest Sunwolves.
their potential against the side still considered likeliest for the cull if the
competition scales back once more at some point, and the men from Durban could
just find themselves heading the SA conference after round one - which would be
a handy little development psychologically.
have to be very wary of placing cart before horse, they arguably have a better
chance of earning a full house of log points against the traditionally labouring
Japanese outfit than any other team in the group (Bulls v Stormers and Jaguares
v Lions could both be nail-biters).
mission is accomplished, the Sharks then return for successive home games
against the Blues - planning bigger things in 2019, apparently, but still
potentially the weakest New Zealand team - and Stormers.
Three out of
three? Far from impossible, and something that would be a menacing kick-start.
that the Sharks were ominously behind the eight-ball fairly quickly last
season, when they lost to the Lions in Johannesburg on the opening weekend, had
an unwelcome second-round bye, and then could only draw with the Waratahs at
Levels of physicality to eclipse most
could also be deemed an area of weakness in certain respects (more of that in
part two of this Sharks study!), but there can be little doubting that Robert
du Preez snr’s charges will inflict plenty of bruises on opponents.
It is in the
Sharks’ DNA to be uncompromising and direct, and they have the personnel - or
read: the human wrecking balls - to bully people off the ball all over again,
particularly on heavier surfaces or in any foul-weather games.
hallmark will begin in the front row, where veteran Beast Mtawarira should be
on a deep quest to keep Steven Kitshoff at bay (increasingly difficult?) for
the Springbok No 1 jersey, and fit-again Coenie Oosthuizen and Thomas du Toit
are two of the bulkiest and most zealous ball-carrying factors by reputation in
and back rows will hardly be short of tonnage on the drive and in big-hits
terms, either, while just behind the engine room, the busy “ten and twelve”
channels will be policed by no-frills individuals like Robert du Preez jnr,
Andre Esterhuizen and the latter’s likely inside centre understudy Marius Louw.
plenty of holes through the middle, the Sharks will be hoping to tee up
agreeable space for some altogether more fleet-footed customers in wider berths
Increasingly settled squad
have surrendered a few players between seasons - but also precious few who
could be considered genuinely frontline material.
they have suffered nothing like the level of setback in that regard that has
occurred at the Lions, even if, when an increasingly peripheral Keegan Daniel
quit last year, a yeoman, nippy loosie servant to the Durban cause since 2006
acquisitions from elsewhere? Close to zero, although the Sharks will be hoping
former Bulls lock Ruben van Heerden, still just 21 and snapped up before the
2018 Currie Cup season, recaptures his mojo after a rather stalled-development
kind of year. He is an iron-man in waiting.
overwhelming nucleus of their existing troops remain, and the major desire of
the home faithful will be to see them gel rather more meaningfully than they
did in up-and-down Super Rugby 2018.
between youth and “hardebaarde” is terrific … at least on paper.
Some men on an angry mission
one of the best developments for the (eventually victorious) Sharks immediately
ahead of the Currie Cup final at Newlands last year was the revelation that hooker
Akker van der Merwe and barnstorming loose-forward twins Jean-Luc and Dan du
Preez had not made the cut for the Springbok end-of-year tour.
Western Province players, though, were made aware they HAD cracked the nod.
Result? Some of the host-union players appearing a little distracted and in
body-preservation mode in the showpiece, and the “Angry Warthog” and company,
by major contrast, producing hopping-mad, bellicose showings that were
influential in the mild upset.
low-centre-of-gravity but eternally beavering Van der Merwe possibly won’t have
calmed down yet, either, as he is not guaranteed to be among the top three Bok
hookers for World Cup year and thus out to prove a point in the SANZAAR
Preez regrettably only joins the fray at around the midway mark of ordinary
season due to injury, but his brother will begin the competition and anxious,
you’d think, to combine some of his known robust qualities with more nuanced
ones to present a better “all-round” package this year and press him closer to
the likes of Duane Vermeulen and Warren Whiteley in the Bok pecking order at
SERIES: The Sharks’ shortcomings
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