New-look Sharks warm up for season with friendly against Russia
It is difficult to predict just how far the new-look Sharks will go in Super Rugby this year under debuting coach Sean Everitt but what is certain is that they will excite with a lively, enterprising brand of rugby.
We had a refreshing taste of Everitt’s vision in the Currie Cup last year when a team packed with his former Under-19 stars scored some breathtaking tries in making it to the semi-finals, despite the new coach having just had one week with a squad that had lost more than half the side that started the Super Rugby quarter-final against the Brumbies..
The Sharks understandably struggled initially, then put together a strong charge to the play-offs.
Everitt has now had the luxury of three months of pre-season training and yesterday he said the way the Sharks will play is to a large extent down to him cutting his suit according to his cloth.
“We have lost a lot of players from a physicality point of view, so we want to play a high tempo game,” the coach said after a sweltering session ahead of tomorrow’s warm-up against Russia (5pm on KP 2). “So we worked hard on work rate and conditioning, and there are a couple of tweaks we have made on defence.”
On that last point, Springbok defence coach (and the man to be named as successor to Rassie Erasmus), Jacques Nienaber, has been working with the Sharks.
“Obviously, the success of the Springboks has had us looking at a few things,” Everitt explained. “Jacques is one of the best in the trade when it comes to defence, so we invited him to look at what we are doing.”
Everitt added that World Cup winners Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am and Sbu Nkosi have injected belief into his youthful squad.
“We are a youthful squad and having guys like that come back is awesome. We take confidence out of them as to where we are at the Sharks and also as a country. There has been a lot of negativity about South African rugby over the last few years and that has now changed. The players have to start believing that we are the best rugby nation in the world and we must take that onto the field.”
On Everitt’s earlier point of how the Sharks have lost physicality, it is fact that the robust Du Preez twins have moved on, as has Beast Mtawarira, Ruan Botha, Akker van der Merwe, Philip van der Walt, Coenie Oosthuizen and Jacques Vermeulen beefy forwards one and all.
On the other hand, the Sharks have a staggering 20 junior South African internationals in their academy ranks (SA Schools and SA Under-21 players), some of whom broke into the senior side last year, and almost all of those players at some stage have been coached by Everitt.
There has also been a round of recruitment of slightly older players to take over from the raft of senior players that left last year.
We are talking about the likes of Ox Nche (Cheetahs), Hanco Venter (Cheetahs), Martin Venter (Lions), Michael Kumbirai (WP), Werner Kok (Blitzboks), Jordan Chait (Maties), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (WP) and Madosh Tambwe (Lions).
Then there is a core of survivors from last year’s Super Rugby squad in Nkosi, Mapimpi, Am, Curwin Bosch, Thomas du Toit, Kerron van Vuuren, Hyron Andrews and Ruben van Heerden, while the Currie Cup exposed the emerging talent of Phepsi Buthelezi, Sanele Nohamba, Aphelele Fassi, Evan Roos, Boeta Chamberlain, Dylon Richardson and Jayden Hendricks.
Much of this was down to Everitt’s relationship with the junior players, many of whom he coached to enormous success with the unbeaten Sharks Under-19s in 2018, after having brought a number of them through from KZN schools.
Everitt will name his Super Rugby squad and captain on January 21.
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