DURBAN – The Sharks may have ended their Super Rugby campaign on a disappointing note, but all is far from lost for the Durban-based franchise going forward.
Whatever the merits or demerits of coach Robert du Preez, who is expected to be sacked, there are plenty of positives in terms of talent coming through as the Sharks look first to the Currie Cup and then to next year’s Super Rugby.
For one thing, it is known that the highly dangerous backline will be retained en masse going into 2020, with Louis Schreuder, Sbu Nkosi, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi and Andre Esterhuizen the seniors that next season will again be backed up by the likes of Aphelele Fassi and Curwin Bosch.
That is more than enough talent at the back, and it is among the forwards that the Sharks will need players who have been labelled “up-and-coming” to come of age. We are talking about Ruben van Heerden, the former South Africa Under-20 star that must fill the boots of the departing Ruan Botha; Thomas du Toit, who whether at loosehead or tighthead must shrug off the puppy fat and become a mongrel; Kerron van Vuuren who was plunged into the deep end because of a crisis at hooker and swam strongly rather than sink; and loosehead Mzamo Majola who has made such a good fist of replacing Tendai Mtawarira.
That is the nucleus of players that the incoming Sharks coach will build his team around given that the franchise is saying goodbye to the following stalwarts: Botha, Philip van der Walt, Mtawarira, Rob du Preez, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Akker van der Merwe and Jacques Vermeulen.
The Du Preez twins, Dan and Jean-Luc, will play Super Rugby next year before joining their elder brother at Sale Sharks.
There is also the encouraging fact that the Sharks have no less than 12 players who did duty with the SA U20 squad that earned a bronze medal at the World Rugby U20 Championship that concluded in Argentina over the weekend. Some of those youngsters coming through have already made their senior debuts... The likes of flank Phepsi Buthelezi, hooker/No 8 Dylan Richardson, scrumhalf Grant Williams and prop Khutha Mchunu.
Loosehead Majola has been a success story after he was flown over to replace Mtawarira when the latter was injured in the Sharks’ tour match against the Waratahs two months ago.
The Westville Boys’ High School Old Boy was one of the better Sharks players in their quarter-final defeat to the Brumbies on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Sharks will now begin their review process of the 2019 Super Rugby season, with the inevitable conclusion that the coaching set-up needs a rigorous overhaul.
Who will come in?
One would have to look at Dick Muir, the former Sharks coach who was an assistant to Du Preez until his clash of coaching philosophies with Du Preez became unbearable. Then there is Grant Bashford, an exceptional coach who was an assistant to John Plumtree and who is on the same coaching page as Muir; plus the brilliant Sean Everitt, the man who guided the Sharks U19 team to great success last year.@MikeGreenaway67