Butch back in black
The Sharks have welcomed the Lions pair of flyhalf Butch James and lock Franco van der Merwe into a settled squad ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby season.
The Sharks have not had a great influx – or loss – of players in the last couple of years and this continuity continues with the Durban side retaining their top talent and integrating just a handful of new players into their squad.
2007 World Cup winner James returns to the Sharks to provide depth at flyhalf as well as to mentor the younger players in the system, helping to bring through the likes of Fred Zeilinga, Robert du Preez (son of former Sharks and Springbok scrumhalf Robert) and Jean-Luc du Plessis (son of Springbok legend Carel).
Van der Merwe, currently with the Springbok squad ahead of the end-of-year tour, will join the Sharks later in the year and said he was excited and thrilled to be playing Super Rugby with the Sharks next year.
“I was really excited to learn that I would be playing for the Sharks next year, I look forward to the opportunity,” said Van der Merwe.
“There is so much experience there, lots of Springboks in the team and I am looking forward to being part of a nice, family culture. I know a few of the guys there and I know there is a positive vibe in the team, a good team culture. I’m also looking forward to staying in Durban.
“John Plumtree has done a lot of good work with the Sharks, no wonder he is Coach of the Year, I feel honoured and I look forward to being a part of the team and playing for them.”
Sharks and Springbok flank Marcell Coetzee has committed to the union until 2015 in a show of support for the team and its ideals, while there has been commitment from the likes of Pat Lambie, Francois Steyn and Louis Ludik for another two years.
The rest of the squad remain on contracts while Ryan Kankowski, currently playing in Japan for a short term contract, will return to the Sharks on February 15 to be available for the start of the Super Rugby tournament.
There is also plenty of exciting young talent available to the senior squad for the future. Amongst the players representing the South African Under-21 world champions, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Paul Jordaan, who have both played for the Sharks, there is further depth in Franco Marais, Allan Dell and Nicolaas van Dyk.
The Sharks Super Rugby campaign kicks off against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on February 23 with the first home game at Kings Park taking place against the Stormers on March 2.