Durban - In a positive and progressive move, the Sharks announced on Tuesday that talented loose-forward Tera Mtembu will captain the team in this season’s Currie Cup.
He becomes the 72nd player to be given the honour of captaining a Sharks team, and significantly, will be the first black player to do so.
Despite his tender age of 23, Mtembu has quickly established himself as a highly respected member of the Sharks squad, having produced a number of eye-catching performances in last year’s Super Rugby and Currie Cup competitions.
Earlier this year, Mtembu stepped into a leadership role when he was entrusted with the captaincy armband in the Vodacom Cup, although he has spent most of this season with the Sharks’ Super Rugby squad.
In confirming the decision to appoint Mtembu as captain, Sharks director of rugby Jake White hailed the attributes he possessed as both a player and leader.
“Tera is a talented player and I have great faith in his ability. My hope is that he embraces this leadership role and gains valuable experience as the tournament progresses, which will assist us in grooming him to take the next step into becoming a more consistent Super Rugby player who can eventually stake a claim for international honours.”
Mtembu, who hails from East London and captained the first team at Dale College, said it was an honour and privilege to be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the Sharks.
“I thank our CEO, director of rugby and the rest of our coaching staff for believing in me and for affording me this opportunity.
“I look forward to the challenge ahead, and know that I will have the support and backing of our coaching staff, younger players and the senior group of players in our squad. As a team we will work together to ensure that we reach the goals we set out for ourselves in this year’s competition.”
The former junior Springbok is sure to be ably supported in the Currie Cup by senior statesmen such as Jacques Botes and Odwa Ndungane, with the domestic competition set to kick off next weekend.
Currie Cup head coach Brad Macleod-Henderson said he was looking forward to working with Mtembu during the campaign.
“Tera is an outstanding and intelligent player with a bright future ahead of him. He will do a fantastic job.”
And when one considers that experienced loose forwards Jean Deysel and Keegan Daniel are heading overseas on long-term deals, and that Willem Alberts and Marcell Coetzee are sure to be involved in the Rugby Championship, Mtembu will be an extremely important player in this Currie Cup.
However, it’s his appointment as captain that signifies a bold and proactive statement from the Sharks.
“I am delighted that Tera has been handed the captaincy for the Currie Cup tournament,” said chief executive John Smit.
“I believe that he has the talent and perseverance to become a great player.
“This is an incredible achievement for a gifted player who has many years of rugby ahead of him, and this responsibility will certainly motivate him to strive for greater heights in his career.”
Having come through the Sharks Academy ranks, Mtembu is capable of featuring in any position in the back row, and he is undoubtedly not far off the radar of Bok coach Heneyke Meyer.
Remarking on Mtembu’s appointment, former Natal captain, Gary Teichmann said: “On the rare occasion that I have interacted with Tera, I have been impressed with his confidence and approach to life, and this will certainly stand him in good stead as a leader.
“I wish him well on his appointment and the campaign ahead.”
The Sharks will get their Currie Cup title defence under way with a fixture against Griquas in Kimberley next Saturday.