Heinz Schenk
2 minute read
23 Apr 2019
5:37 pm

Slumping Sharks bank on returning experience

Heinz Schenk

Coach Robert du Preez expresses his delight at the availability of wise men such as Philip van der Walt, Tyler Paul and Ruan Botha.

Philip van der Walt of the Cell C Sharks tackled by Emiliano Boffelli of the Jaguares during the Super Rugby match between Cell C Sharks and Jaguares at Jonsson Kings Park on April 13, 2019 in Durban, South Africa. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

It’s debatable whether the Sharks’ talented and stable squad really need a bunch of hardened stalwarts to reverse a four-match losing streak.

After all, what’s the point of having a squad system?

Nonetheless, the Durbanites are grateful for the presence of lock Ruan Botha, flankers Philip van der Walt and Tyler Paul and hooker Akker van der Merwe, who are all in the touring party for the trek through Australia and New Zealand for the next three weeks.

The trio had missed significant periods of the campaign to date through injury and suspension.

29-year-old Van der Walt in particular has shown his worth both as a robust presence in the loose trio and as leader.

“Philip’s performance (against the Reds last week) was very industrious,” coach Robert du Preez said from Sydney on Tuesday, where the Sharks take on the Waratahs on Saturday.

“He completed 11 tackles and we know what he brings to our team. I’m pretty sure he’s now just going to get better with every game.”

But the others’ influence also can’t be denied, especially in terms of the sheer experience they bring into the equation.

A lack of composure and perhaps even leadership has been a major contributing factor in the Sharks’ slump.

“It’s great to have these guys back,” said Du Preez.

“It creates a fantastic dynamic. I believe when we announce the team later this week, we’ll have a very strong match-23.”

Further lifting the spirits is the sheer fact that the Sharks are now overseas, where players and coaching staffs tend to pull together more intimately.

“Tours are fantastic. It’s one of the perks of being involved in professional rugby. The guys have bonded already and the leadership group have organised some great initiatives already to keep the team spirit going.

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