DURBAN – It is difficult to try and picture a Kings Park experience without the Sharks Flashers making their way around the perimeter of the field.
They have become ingrained in the culture that is Durban’s rugby, but, as their manager and choreographer, Nadine Oberholzer, explains, there is far more to it than just “step, touch, and show your boobs”.
Oberholzer, who auditioned for the Sharkettes when she was 13, has managed to turn this evolving platform of dance, choreography, cheerleading and pre-match hype into a thriving business, while still helping expand the pioneering Sharks flashers, and Sharkettes, as well as the girls themselves.
The former dancer-turned-businesswoman now runs her company, Leventus, a model and events management company, with a strong feeder for that commercial venture coming from the Sharks girls, and guys, who weekly strut their stuff on the Kings Park turf.
Oberholzer explains how the stadium pitch is a perfect platform for studio dancers to make the step into more professional work, giving them an opportunity to show what they are capable of in front of a large crowd.
“The Sharkettes are professional dancers, and I say professional loosely because what I have found is the integration from studio dancers to the professional environment is quite a big leap,” she manager said.
“A lot of people don’t realise that, not even the dancers themselves. So it is a nice platform to get started in, and from there I often hire girls from the squad for outside work as well.”’
The Sharkettes are a newer brand of pre-match entertainment, but they entertain and catch the eye just as much as the flasher girls. Their choreographed skills and moves are flawless and well rehearsed, and that form of professionalism is making its way to the flashers.
“The flashers have evolved over the years, which is fun for me, whereby we take models, dancers, gymnasts, anyone who can move, and audition them for the flashers,” Oberholzer said.
“To the public, it seems simple, but they are learning choreography.
“We have been leaning more towards dancers though, so that we can get a little creative because it is more than just step, touch, and show your boobs. I don’t think they will ever do away with them - they will just keep adding to it because the Sharks are pioneers of this thing.
“I did my first audition, and I was a Sharkette at 13 already, and not to give my age away, it has been going for a good few years now! Then the other provinces cottoned on.”
Indeed, the Sharks have led the way in laying down this pre-match cheer squad that goes far beyond a simple slideshow. The Sharks flashers have grown a large following and have spawned countless imitators in other provinces. Not bad for something that was rumoured to have begun as an idea from a few Westville moms.
“I think my mom was actually involved in getting the flashers started,” Oberholzer said.
“I think they wanted to do a show at Westville Boys High and one of the mothers knew someone at the Sharks and was like: ‘Hey, why don’t we try this?’ There was definitely something along those lines. So it was a bunch of moms who thought it would be a fun thing!”
From those pioneering days, the Sharks flashers and Sharkettes have gone on to help a lot of girls, and guys, make the next step in a career of dance, or modeling. Oberholzer said that being a Sharks flasher is a big step towards professionalism.
“You start pushing boundaries, and I have set the rule now that it is 18 and over - for a number of reasons, but the biggest one being this is a professional environment.
“I wouldn’t hire a 16-year-old to wear hot pants and a crop top for a corporate event. There is no other way for these girls to transition from Studio dancer to professional.
“There are sponsors, like Jockey, and Chateau Gateaux involved, so it is serious work.”
Of course, girls are not the only dancers hoping to make it to the professional ranks, and Oberholzer speaks about the impact the boys have made in joining the Sharkettes crew
“Some of these guys come from a variety of backgrounds; this is their bread and butter.
“ The experience for them is everything they have hoped for. I have been very big on pushing these boys.”
The idea of girls flashing their bodies in front of crowds and TV audiences, can of course cause concern with more conservative folk, but Oberholzer has a parting thought for them.
“Some people talk of sexism and all this nonsense with the flasher girls, but what is important to remember is no-one forced the girls, they want to do it. And, it is not an arrogant thing.
“From being a flasher, I can’t tell you how many girls have landed massive modeling contracts, they are on billboards everywhere.
“It is easy to get bogged down chasing money and the corporate world, but you forget that this is the dream for some of these girls - they just want to come to the game and dance for the Sharks, and it is literally their life goal!”