Sharks enjoying player depth in Europe

HOLLYWOODBETS Sharks flyhalf Siya Masuku has created great competition for the position. | Shutterstock

HOLLYWOODBETS Sharks flyhalf Siya Masuku has created great competition for the position. | Shutterstock

Published Apr 20, 2024


ALL the world is abuzz after the inclusion of Siya Kolisi in the Times Top 100 list, but another Siya is quietly making a big impression at the Sharks.

Springbok captain Kolisi left the Sharks for Racing 92 roughly at the same time that Siya Masuku joined the Sharks from the Cheetahs, but arriving at The Tank and pulling the jersey on are two different things.

The issue for Masuku was that the Sharks kept backing the long-serving but under-performing Curwin Bosch. He was a frustrated observer from the fringes as his new team plummeted to the bottom of the United Rugby Championship.

Until Bosch’s time finally ran out and Masuku was given an overdue crack in the drought-ending defeat of Ulster on March 23. It cannot be a coincidence that the Sharks have won four matches in a row with Masuku in the key position of flyhalf and Bosch playing off the bench.

To be fair to Bosch, he looks a different player with the pressure off and he has looked sharp with his counter-attacks from the back as substitute fullback.

Last night against the Warriors in Glasgow, Bosch started at flyhalf but that was to give Masuku, who played off the bench, a break after a gruelling month that has seen the Sharks win a semi-final place in the Challenge Cup.

In the quarter-final, Masuku nailed 18 points in the 36-30 defeat of Edinburgh to win the Player of the Match award for the second time in three weeks.

Interestingly, a few years ago Masuku was playing at club level for Rustenburg Impala after a stint at the Lions didn’t work out and now he is winning awards for the Sharks in European competitions.

The big difference between Bosch and Masuku is the latter is not shy to take the ball to the line to put the defence on the back foot, in a similar way to the great Sharks flyhalf Henry Honiball.

Bosch tends to stand back deep in the pocket and this makes it harder for his backs to take the ball at pace and ask questions of the defence.

“Siya and Curwin are on par for distance with the boot, but I think what it (the preference of Masuku) has done is create a competitive edge for the position,” said attack coach David Williams.

“This brings out the best performance for both of them and gives us a great platform to push on for the rest of the season.

“This season has been about growing the depth of the squad and getting everyone to understand the way we want to play,” Williams continued.

“We’ve got that ability now to bring people off the bench and still carry on with the game, so we’re in a great place.

“In the same manner that Siya has come through, Ethan Hooker has progressed up into the senior squad and taken his opportunity well. He offers that focal point for the collision with his ability to carry but he also has the ‘softer’ skills to offload and create opportunities.

“Francois Venter (who led the Sharks last night in Glasgow) has groomed him well and built his confidence and has helped him with the cues in the game that he needs to look for.”