DURBAN – There used to be a joke about where the Sharks players stayed when they played away games against the Cheetahs. The answer was “at home.”
That dig at the Sharks’ relentless recruiting of Cheetahs players still holds true – former Cheetahs in the current Sharks squad include Philip van der Walt, Coenie Oosthuizen, Michael Claassens, Lourens Adriaanse and Cobus Reinach – but the same can be said about Eastern Cape players in the Sharks ranks that will have their families in the stands at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday when the Kings host the Sharks.
There is the midfield pairing of Jeremy Ward and Lukhanyo Am, possible wings Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane and bright young star Sbu Nkosi, who had a promising debut last week, flank Tera Mtembu, and possibly fit-again flank Keegan Daniel. Also, current captain Van der Walt is originally from the Eastern Cape, and it was at University in Bloemfontein that he made his breakthrough to professional rugby.
Curwin Bosch is the latest recruit from PE but will not be involved in this weekend’s match because he has now joined the Junior Boks ahead of their World Under -20 Championship in Georgia.
Then there are the Kings players that spent time in the Shark Tank.
Kings flyhalf Lionel Cronje played both Currie Cup and Super Rugby for the Sharks two years ago, and openside flank Chris Cloete (an East Londoner) spent two years in the Sharks’ age group teams but was not offered a senior contract.
Sharks backline coach Sean Everett coached both of those players.
“Lionel is in the form of his life and I am very happy for him. He is reviving his career and we need to keep a watchful eye on him,” Everett said of a player that has created some special tries for his wingers with his nifty grubbers into space.
“The Kings are flourishing because they have a good spine in their backline in form players in 9, 10 and 15, and some brilliant finishers on the wings,” Everett said of shiny new pins such as Makazole Mapimpi, who has six tries to his name, despite being on the wing in a struggling team.
“I know Chris Cloete well having coached him at Under-19 level at the Sharks. He is a serious threat. He goes in hard on the ball, and he regularly turns over ball, and turn- over ball is crucial for the Kings in how they play. So we must be accurate at the breakdown and we must look after Cloete. We will have a plan in place for him.”
Everett said that the Sharks were well aware of what to expect and were preparing accordingly.
“It is good for South African rugby that the Kings are confident after playing some good rugby, and that this game is getting a lot of media coverage. They are talking this game up in PE, and that is good for the game,” Everett said.
So how are the Shark going to approach this game?
“We are not going there to defend,” Everett said. “We are going there is to play positive rugby, but also structured rugby because a lot of their tries come from broken play. So we need to look after the ball and be disciplined.
“The Kings will see themselves as underdogs although we do not see it that way and we respect them highly,” the backline coach said. “They will look to put us under pressure in the hope that we make mistakes, and we will be trying to do the opposite.”