Super Rugby preview: Sharks


  • Super Rugby preview: Sharks

    Super Rugby preview: Sharks

    The new-look Sharks are setting their sights on finishing top of the South African group, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    The Sharks endured a nightmare schedule in 2016, but still managed to progress to the knockout stage of the competition. In a revealing indication of just how the new Super Rugby format has created a patently uneven playing field, a gruelling mid-season draw saw the Sharks face off against the high-flying Lions at home, before heading to New Zealand to play the much-improved Blues, the 2015 champions Highlanders, and the ever-dangerous Chiefs. The Durban-based side then returned home to play eventual champions the Hurricanes, before travelling all the way to Argentina to face the Jaguares and then back to Durban to play the Kings.

    PRE-SEASON REPORT: Sharks hammer Cheetahs

    It’s the sort of draw that severely tested the Sharks’ mental and physical resolve, as well as their squad depth, and to their credit they managed to battle their way through to book a quarter-final berth. However, the Sharks undoubtedly left their worst performance for last as they suffered a humiliating 41-0 loss against the Hurricanes.

    It was a disappointing end to the season for the coastal side, but the good news is that they can look forward to a far more favourable schedule in 2017. Beneficially, the Sharks will kick off their campaign with two overseas games in Australia against the Reds and Brumbies, before returning for a sequence of games that will predominantly be played at Kings Park.

    The only other overseas travels the Sharks will have to endure are a one-off trip to Argentina to face the Jaguares and to Singapore, where they will play the Sunwolves, but these clashes should be successfully negotiated if the squad is well managed.

    This season, the Sharks will have a new coach at the helm, with Robert du Preez taking over from Gary Gold, and a young squad set to be led by Pat Lambie.

    PRE-SEASON REPORT: Sharks bash Bulls XV

    FORWARD TO WATCH
    Jean-Luc du Preez 

    Du Preez was surely the find of the season for the Sharks in 2016. In his first full season in the senior set-up, the talented 21-year-old quickly became a mainstay in the side (completing some 987 minutes of game time), while making 90 carries, 192 running metres and beating 15 defenders. It was a dynamic return for the flanker, who impressed with his physicality, work rate and strong ball-carrying ability, which regularly saw him selected ahead of Springbok Jean Deysel. His form in Super Rugby was rewarded with a call-up to the SA A side for a series of matches against the England Saxons in June, while his ability to play across the back-row positions made him a valuable addition to the Bok squad for their end-of-year tour. Du Preez earned his first Bok cap in their final match of the tour, against Wales, to complete a meteoric rise. After an unforgettable 2016, the challenge for this youngster will be to back that up with another consistent showing as a player who will be acknowledged as a danger man.

    BACK TO WATCH
    Curwin Bosch
    At the beginning of 2016, Bosch was playing in the Varsity Shield competition for the UKZN Impi, in his first year out of school. Some six months later, the 19-year-old found himself playing alongside some of South Africa’s top domestic players as he made the Sharks’ No 15 jersey his own during the Currie Cup. In total, the youngster played 620 minutes of a possible 640 during the Sharks’ domestic campaign, while contributing an impressive 106 points as he regularly demonstrated his dead-eye goal-kicking accuracy. After making such an impression in his first season with the senior side, he appears to have all the attributes to make the step up to Super Rugby. There’s no doubt he would have spent time during the pre-season doing some important strength and conditioning training, but he is the sort of player who can offer the Sharks’ backline some much-needed X-factor.

    SUPERBRU: Join SA Rugby magazine’s pool and win your share of R30,000!

    BIG SIGNING
    Clement Poitrenaud (France)
    The Sharks sprung a surprise when they announced the signing of the veteran French fullback, but the 34-year-old will play an important mentorship role in 2017.

    BIG LOSS
    Marcell Coetzee (Ireland)

    An unfortunate knee injury ruled the flanker out for most of the 2016 season and his presence was sorely missed, as it will be again this year now that he’s moved to Ulster on a permanent basis.

    INJURY NEWS: Keegan Daniel ruled out for 12 weeks

    2017 FIXTURES
    24 February: Reds (a)
    4 March: Brumbies (a)
    11 March: Waratahs (h)
    18 March: Kings (h)
    25 March: Cheetahs (a)
    1 April: Lions (a)
    8 April: Jaguares (h)
    BYE
    22 April: Rebels (h)
    29 April: Jaguares (a)
    6 May: Force (h)
    13 May: Kings (a)
    20 May: Sunwolves (a)
    27 May: Stormers (h)
    30 June: Bulls (h)
    BREAK FOR JUNE TESTS
    BYE
    15 July: Lions (h)

    2016 NUMBERS THAT MATTER
    1,953 – Tackles made (rank 2)
    435 – Kicks from hand (rank 2)
    160 – Penalties conceded (rank 2)
    130 – Turnovers won (rank 1)
    19 – Lineouts stolen  (rank 4)
    Source: Vodacom Rugby Stats App

    2016 RECORD
    Win 56%
    Won: 9
    Lost: 6
    Draw: 1

    PREVIOUS LOG FINISHES
    SUPER 12
    1996 4th (finalists)
    1997 4th (semi-finalists)
    1998 3rd (semi-finalists)
    1999 7th
    2000 12th
    2001 2nd (finalists)
    2002 10th
    2003 11th
    2004 7th
    2005 12th
    SUPER 14
    2006 5th
    2007 1st (finalists)
    2008 3rd (semi-finalists)
    2009 6th
    2010 9th
    SUPER RUGBY
    2011 6th (qualifier)
    2012 6th (finalists)
    2013 8th
    2014 3rd (semi-finalists)
    2015 11th
    2016: 8th (quarter-finalists)
    Note: Played as Natal in 1996 and 1997

    FAST FACT
    Head coach Robert du Preez will be coaching his twin sons, Daniel and Jean-Luc

    FOLLOW HIM ON TWITTER
    @PatLambie

    OTHER SA PREVIEWS
    Bulls
    Cheetahs
    Kings
    Lions
    Stormers

    Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images

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