DURBAN – When the Sharks had a chance at naming a side devoid of Super Rugby distractions, they hastily chose one full of experience and talent.
A little more surprising though was their choice of captain as lock Ruan Botha got the nod ahead of former Sharks captain Keegan Daniel, and Springbok captain, Chiliboy Ralepelle.
However, it is a good move from coach Robert du Preez as his side prepare to take on the Pumas at home (5pm today) in what they will consider their actual start of the season. The first game, and subsequent loss, against the Cheetahs was heavily influenced by the men from Durban playing a very green side.
Now, however, they have powered up and captain Botha is pleased to be leading a side that he only recently joined from Western Province.
“You don’t arrive thinking you will be the first choice captain at your new team,” Botha said. “I am honoured and fortunate that coach Rob has given me the chance.
“I am looking forward to the challenge ahead and the season that is coming, but I am lucky I have a great bunch of leaders with me as well. With the leaders I have behind me, there is nothing that can go wrong.”
The coach too was happy with his choice as the young Sharks are again looking to build for the future in terms of their leadership capacity. Keegan Daniel, Odwa Ndungane, even Beast Mtawarira and Chiliboy Ralepelle, do not have too many more years left, whereas Botha could be the future at just 25-years-old.
“We know we had a bunch of potential leaders for this campaign, the likes of Keegan Daniel and Chiliboy Ralepelle, and Franco Marais who have all captained the Sharks before. But we believe that Ruan can do a job for us, and we are looking for some continuity with the captaincy and I think it is a great choice,” Du Preez explained.
The Sharks have said all week that they have a lot of making up to do in terms of their pride, after an agonizing exit from Super Rugby, and their fifth placed finished in the Currie Cup last season - missing the quarter-finals.
The Pumas have shown already that, as one of the minnow teams, they are very up for the Currie Cup. The men from up north have already beaten the Lions and are full of confidence and cohesion.
However, the Sharks with their full choice of selection, have chosen a team that only has one player that has not played Super Rugby for them in Ross Geldenhuys. However the tighthead prop has a Super Rugby winners medal from his time with the Highlanders.
A busy schedule awaits the Sharks as they face the Griquas after this game, next Friday, then they have a Wednesday game five days later against the Bulls, before they face the Lions the Saturday in the same week.