Wiehann Herbst boosts Sharks’ prop depth but getting Bongi Mbonambi ASAP is the main goal
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DURBAN - The Sharks have borrowed one of their former players from the Lions, Wiehahn Herbst, to bolster their depth at tighthead prop for the duration of Rainbow Cup SA, starting with their visit to the Stormers on Saturday.
Herbst cut his teeth at the Sharks after leaving school at Klerksdorp and after five years in Durban he spend the same period in Northern Ireland at Ulster.
Last year, the 32-year-old was brought back to South African by the Bulls but after a few months in Pretoria he was released to the Lions and they, in turn, have loaned him to the Sharks, who notoriously have a problem with back-up to Thomas du Toit.
The Sharks have aggressively looked to recruit in this position, including targeting Stormers and Bok tighthead Frans Malherbe, but they can’t quite nail down a world class No 3.
They have had better luck at hooker, with it now an open secret that Bongo Mbonambi is to leave the Stormers for the Sharks after the end of the British and Irish Lions tour later this year.
The Sharks would dearly love Mbonambi to be immediately available for them because they have two hookers out injured in Dylan Richardson and Dan Jooste, leaving them with just two fit men in the position in Fez Mbatha and Kerron van Vuuren for Saturday’s trip to the Stormers.
It is understood that one of the Sharks’ American partners, entertainment giants Roc Nation, are wanting to add Mbonambi to their rugby fold that already includes Siya Kolisi, Sbu Nkosi, Tendai Mtawarira and England lock Maro Itoje.
Neither the Sharks nor the Stormers will formally acknowledge that the Mbonambi transaction has taken place, but the reality is that it has.
For now, though, Mbonambi remains a formidable foe for the Sharks, especially as part of that World Cup-winning front row he forms with Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff.
And with World Player of the Year for 2019, Pieter-Steph du Toit, adding his inspirational presence — whether off the bench or starting — the Stormers have a strong international flavour.
“The Stormers have some serious heavyweights returning to their pack,” agrees Sharks coach Sean Everitt. “Pieter-Steph will have a major presence for them in his comeback — he is that type of player that commands huge respect.
“But we also have our share of inspirational Springboks,” Everitt stressed. “Siya brings serious leadership in backing up Lukhanyo Am, and then there are Thomas du Toit, Curwin Bosch, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Ox Nche and Sbu Nkosi ... I’d also like to add the name of Aphelele Fassi who while he is not yet a Bok, is rapidly getting back to his best form (after missing most of last year through injury).”
Everitt said his team cannot wait for the season to resume.
“The guys were well prepared for the (scheduled) game against the Stormers last week only to have the carpet pulled out from under them – for real reasons, but we have got used to taking disruption in our stride, and we are grateful to be playing this week.”