Heinz Schenk
4 minute read
19 Feb 2017
8:03 pm

A blank page: The curious case of the young Sharks

Heinz Schenk

New coach Robert du Preez starts with a squad that will probably take his lessons to heart than challenge him. That could be a good dynamic.

19-year-old Curwin Bosch shot to fame last year. Expectations will be high. Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images.

For a side that faced a daunting schedule in last year’s campaign and had to deal with poor administration for a couple of years now, the Sharks did reasonably well in 2016.

This year, there’s a distinct feeling that the Durbanites are starting on a blank page.

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That’s no bad thing for a side that has a decent blend of experience and youth.

More importantly, there’s none of the big egos present.

That’s not a bad thing.

Fullbacks: Curwin Bosch, Clement Poitrenaud, Rhyno Smith

19-year-old Curwin Bosch is a prodigy who doesn’t seem to be affected by being entrusted with responsibility.

He could possibly light up the competition with his talent and the expectation is that coach Robert du Preez will back him.

If things don’t work out, no-one will complain having a 34-year-old, 47-cap French veteran – Clement Poitrenaud – to help out.

Verdict: Great balance

Wings: Lwazi Mvovo, Kobus van Wyk, Odwa Ndungane, Sbu Nkosi, Marius Louw

The Sharks could benefit from a fired-up Lwazi Mvovo anxious to show he can still be a Springbok after last year’s struggles.

Kobus van Wyk, signed from the Stormers, will be keen to re-ignite a stalled career but the real treat could be Sbu ‘Lomu’ Nkosi, who’s actually keeping a fine player like S’bura Sithole out of the touring squad.

Verdict: Explosive if they’re fired up

Centres: Andre Esterhuizen, Lukhanyo Am, S’bura Sithole, Jeremy Ward, Johan Deysel, Tristan Blewett

The departure of the classy Paul Jordaan is still likely to be felt but Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am looked a decent duo in the Currie Cup.

Nambian Johan Deysel also deserves a shot at some stage.

But you get the feeling the Sharks lack a proven, classy performer to glue the midfield.

Verdict: Promising but raw

Flyhalves: Pat Lambie, Garth April, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Inny Radebe

The Sharks badly need their captain and Springbok pivot Pat Lambie to fire and stay injury-free.

He’s a classy, proven performer.

Garth April’s indiscretions off the field have seen him drop back in the pecking order after a promising Super Rugby in 2016.

He needs to regain that touch.

Verdict: Too much of a gulf in class

Scrumhalves: Cobus Reinach, Michael Claassens, Hanco Venter, Rowan Gouws

The return of Cobus Reinach is massive, not just for the Sharks but for the Springboks, who lacked depth in the position last season.

To have the experienced Michael Claassens in the pocket is also a luxury.

Verdict: Classy … if the top two stay fit

Eigthmen: Tera Mtembu, Philip van der Walt, Dan du Preez

There was a time when Tera Mtembu was the Sharks’ star loose-forward and their captain.

It’s been a tough two years but he now has a chance to atone.

He’s got the potential to do so.

But he’s got tough competition in the flame-haired Philip van der Walt, while Dan du Preez is also knocking.

Verdict: Good competition

Flankers: Jean-Luc du Preez, Francois Kleinhans, Jacques Vermeulen, Khaya Majola, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel

Jean-Luc du Preez could be the hottest property in local rugby if he capitalises on a brilliant impression made last year.

He’s a versatile, strong ball-carrier with ‘Bok’ written all over him.

In tandem with the nippy Francois Kleinhans, they provide great balance.

However, Capetonian Jacques Vermeulen is a highly-rated junior eager for a shot.

And, of course, there’s still wise old heads like Jean Deysel and the injured Keegan Daniel.

Verdict: An unexpectedly fine group of players

Locks: Ruan Botha, Stephan Lewies, Etienne Oosthuizen, Hyron Andrews, Jean Droste

Ruan Botha was a Baby Bok for a reason and Stephan Lewies is a menacing, brilliant player if he’s fully fit.

Add the hard-working Etienne Oosthuizen into the mix and the Sharks could be set for a solid campaign in the set phases.

Verdict: Accomplished but injury-prone

Props: Beast Mtawarira, Coenie Oosthuizen, Lourens Adriaanse, Thomas du Toit, John-Hubert Meyer, Juan Schoeman

Wow, what a powerful group this is?

Du Preez’s greatest luxury is that he could easily rotate his top four – Mtawarira, Oosthuizen, Adriaanse and Du Toit – weekly without sacrificing power.

He’ll certainly hope all four are keen to push each other.

Verdict: Bulldozing

Hookers: Franco Marais, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Stephan Coetzee

It seemed unlikely a year or so ago, but the Sharks really do need Chiliboy Ralepelle to show everyone again what the fuss was all about all those years ago.

Franco Marais is a willing if somewhat limited player, who’s only first-choice because of his older teammate’s inconsistency.

You feel that needs to change.

Verdict: Ralepelle should realise his importance

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