DURBAN - Improving upon last season is a must for any professional rugby team, and for the Sharks, the only way to improve in this Currie Cup campaign is to lift the trophy. The pressure is on to be crowned champions on October 27, but it comes down to more than just silverware.
The rugby climate in South Africa has dictated that Super Rugby is the ultimate prize, and the Currie Cup is a good breeding ground for young talent, as well as a place to evolve and grow a game plan; the perfect springboard before the next Super Rugby season.
For the past three years in Super Rugby, the Sharks have ended in eighth and then bowed out in their quarterfinal against the top ranked side. But in the Currie Cup, there have been varying successes.
2017 saw the Sharks lose their first game - to the Cheetahs while still occupied in a play off in Super Rugby, then go on to win 10 games in a row before losing at home in the final to Western Province.
However, that was a much better showing than the year before where they did not make the play-offs, finishing in fifth in 2016. 2015 also had the same result - fifth place and no knock-out rugby.
So, now, if the Sharks are able to step up their game significantly in Currie Cup from 2016 to 2017 - and they have the pressure rightly on them to win this condensed version, it must be expected that Super Rugby in 2019 will be a far better showing.
However, the improvement in Super Rugby cannot be expected just to come from the players as it must be thought that the Currie Cup boost came from investing in such players. The Sharks have contributed a bevy of new Springboks to the national set up this year, and that is thanks to a lot of work going into growing the individuals through Currie Cup and Super Rugby.
So, with a squad that is overflowing with talent - in both competitions - there needs to be a big jump up in the overall performance of the union. Things like consistency and converting opportunities into points are aspects that have been problematic for a number of seasons now.
It is up to the players to come together as a team and become a cohesive unit, but also up to the coaching staff to empower and produce a polished team with all the talent available to them.
The world ‘building’ has been bandied about at the Shark Tank for some time now, and even the management will probably admit that phase is over. There now needs to be a stand-out coat of paint applied to this finished product that can take it to the next level heading all the way to the end of 2019.