Durban - By contracting former Italy, Southern Kings and Mpumalanga Pumas defence guru Omar Mouneimne as their specialist coach of that department, the Sharks have taken a significant step towards consigning their defensive frailties of 2015 to the scrapheap.
Mouneimne started his rugby coaching career in the Cape, where he worked under Jacques Nienaber at the Stormers.
Getting the players to enjoy the physical side of defending and playing at the breakdowns was Mouneimne’s focus when he was contracted to Western Province, and he was the unsung hero of several WP successes at age-group level before he was contracted by Nick Mallett to become the Italy defence coach.
From there he went to the Kings, who took on strong aggressive defence as a key part of their culture during the Port Elizabeth franchise’s one season in the Super Rugby top flight in 2013. Although the Kings struggled because they never had much of a resource base when it came to experienced players, they were noted that year for their strong defensive efforts, and they shocked a few teams, such as Western Force and Jake White’s Brumbies, along the way.
Mouneimne was one of the Kings management members who sought greener pastures when the Kings were relegated from Super Rugby in 2014, but he found employment with the former Kings coach Alan Solomons in Scotland. He returned home to South Africa earlier this year as an assistant coach with the Pumas team that retained the Vodacom Cup.
He replaces Mike Horak as the Sharks’ Super Rugby defensive coach, with the Sharks going into the 2016 with several other changes to the unit that did duty last year. Brendan Venter, who was technical adviser to Gold, is no longer part of the group, and neither of course is Brad MacLeod-Henderson, who resigned before the last Currie Cup season.
Sean Everitt, who has been steadily accumulating experience, is in fact the only survivor along with Gold from the 2015 group, with Paul Anthony also not finding a place in the senior Sharks management.
Former Bok scrumhalf and successful coach of College Rovers and the Pukke, Robert du Preez, was announced as the new assistant coach of the Sharks a few weeks ago, and Gold has confirmed that he has already had an impact.
“Robert brings the hard edge that we need in the coaching group,” said Gold in a chat with Supersport.com in Durban this week.
“A lot of hard work was done prior to the start of our pre-season campaign to assemble a skilled group of coaches, who we have no doubt can improve our performance,” said Gold.
The Sharks have been busy with pre-season training since late last week.
Du Preez’s brief is to work with the Sharks’ skills and attack, and according to Gold he has already impressed with his ideas he has for improving the Sharks’ attacking game.
It was the defence that was the biggest concern in 2014, however, and it will be interesting to see how much impact Mouneimne has. Like Du Preez, he too is known to be a hard task master as a coach and with several players from last year’s squad having been informed last week that they are no longer needed by the Sharks – the official announcement will be made on Thursday – the youthful look of the Sharks group in 2016 will probably coincide with the introduction of a culture of strong discipline.
It is understood that at least 10 players have been told they are now surplus to requirements, and that of course is in addition to the experienced Sharks Boks such as the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, and Willem Alberts, who have moved overseas. Pieter-Steph du Toit has moved to the Cape, but his loss has been offset by the arrival of Ruan Botha, himself a potential future Springbok, who has moved up from Western Province to fill the void at No 5.
Marco Wentzel, last year’s captain and regular No 5 lock once Du Toit was ruled out with injury, is understood to have been one of the players offloaded in last week’s mini-purge in Durban directed at addressing the non-performance of 2015. It must be remembered that Gold only arrived in Durban from Japan two weeks before the start of last year’s campaign and now is the first time he has had a proper opportunity to give full focus to recruitment.
The full Sharks coaching team for the 2016 Super Rugby season is as follows:
Director of rugby/head coach: Gary Gold
Forwards coach: Ryan Strudwick
Skills and attack: Robert du Preez
Skills and attack: Sean Everitt
Defence: Omar Mouneimne
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