Sharks' roller coaster ride continues
SUPER RUGBY PREVIEW 2020 – TEAM BY TEAM: There are good reasons why bookmakers are listing the Sharks as rank outsiders – with long odds of 34-1.
Only the Bulls (41-1), Reds (67-1) and Sunwolves (201-1) are rated as having less of a chance of winning.
This comes against the backdrop of the team having been losing quarterfinalists for the past four seasons – finishing sixth (2019), eight (2018), seventh (2017) and eight (2016).
However, a new coach and the departure of a host of senior players have ensured those who risk their money on predicting the outcome of the competition are happy to take a risk of some punters putting their proverbial house on the Sharks going all the way.
They feel only diehard fans will put serious money on the Sharks making the play-offs again.
Let us look at the facts, the reality of the Sharks’ situation.
Robert du Preez (senior) was certainly not the most popular man in Durban in 2019 – especially not after calling the media ‘cockroaches’.
Despite his often artless and unrefined behaviour, he certainly has a better coaching pedigree than his successor Sean Everitt.
As the saying goes: ‘Better the devil you know.’
Everett does have some ‘pedigree’, with his insights into the Sharks’ culture top of that list. He has been in the system, first as a Currie Cup assistant, since 2008. Apart from his work in the junior ranks – as head coach of the Under and Under-21 teams – he started working as backs and attack coach with the Super Rugby team since 2016.
He is not a bad coach. He has not had much experience, or success, as a head coach beyond domestic second-tier competitions.
Everitt is not shy to take on new challenges and readily admits a lot of work awaits before their opening match against the Bulls, in Durban on Friday, January 31.
“We are definitely on the right track, although there are always things to work on and we do need to polish up a few things,” Everett said in an interview on the Sharks website.
“But as far as the tweaks we made, we know we’ve made progress in the right direction and certainly improved in areas we identified that needed work.
“The reality check is always the first game and we’re happy with where we are.”
The next issue is the enormous amount of international experience the Sharks have lost since the Springboks’ victorious World Cup campaign.
Top of the list is veteran prop Tendai Mtawarira (who joined Old Glory in America), with 117 Test caps and 160 Super Rugby games worth of experience missing from the team.
The combined loss of the Du Preez brothers – Robert, junior, Dan and Jean-Luc – a combined 18 Tests and 230-plus first-class games worth of experience missing from the 2020 version.
Now add in the loss of Coenie Oosthuizen (30 Tests and 180 first-class games), Armand van der Merwe (three Tests and 12- first-class games), Ruan Botha (120 first-class games) and Philip van der Walt (180 first-class games) – then you grasp the true nature of their ‘collateral damage’.
The Sharks also don’t have the greatest start to their campaign.
After the opening round, they head to Dunedin for the opening clash of an Antipodean tour, taking on the Highlanders (Friday, February 7) and then the Hurricanes (Saturday, February 15), before heading to Australia where the Rebels await (Saturday, February 22). They complete their four-week tour against the Reds on February 29.
A week later, the Sharks host the 2019 losing finalists and South African Conference winners the Jaguares, following by a home game against one of the pre-tournament favourites the Stormers.
They could be in a deep hole by then.
* Continue reading below
South African Conference Placing: Fifth
Player of the Year: Retshegofaditswe Nché
Rookie of the Year: Jordan Chait
Super Rugby Placing: Twelve or lower
In: Michael Kumbirai (from Stormers), Ox Nché (from Cheetahs), Le Roux Roets (from Waratahs), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (from Stormers), James Venter (from Lions), Henco Venter (from Cheetahs), Jordan Chait (from Maties), Madosh Tambwe (from Lions).
Out: Tendai Mtawarira (to Old Glory DC), Coenie Oosthuizen (to Sale Sharks), Chiliboy Ralepelle (suspended), Armand van der Merwe (to Sale Sharks), Ruan Botha (to London Irish), Gideon Koegelenberg (to Rebels), Jean-Luc du Preez (to Sale Sharks), Luke Stringer (to Sharks), Jacques Vermeulen (to Exeter Chiefs), Wian Vosloo (to Blue Bulls), Dan du Preez (to Sale Sharks), Philip van der Walt (to Newcastle Falcons), Robert du Preez (to Sale Sharks), Kobus van Wyk (to Hurricanes).
Best finish: Runners-up in 1994, 1996, 2001, 2007, 2012
Worst finish: Twelfth in 2000 and 2005
Squad (provisional): Thomas du Toit, Michael Kumbirai, Mzamo Majola, Khutha Mchunu, John-Hubert Meyer, Retshegofaditswe Nché, Juan Schoeman, Craig Burden, Fez Mbatha, Dylan Richardson, Kerron van Vuuren, Hyron Andrews, Andrew Evans, Tyler Paul, Le Roux Roets, JJ van der Mescht, Emile van Heerden, Ruben van Heerden, Phepsi Buthelezi, Celimpilo Gumede, Tera Mtembu, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Evan Roos, James Venter, Henco Venter, Sanele Nohamba, Louis Schreuder, Grant Williams, Cameron Wright, Curwin Bosch, Jordan Chait, Boeta Chamberlain, Lukhanyo Am, Andre Esterhuizen, DJ Falconer, Murray Koster, Marius Louw, Jeremy Ward, Caleb Dingaan, Makazole Mapimpi, Lwazi Mvovo, Sibusiso Nkosi, JP Pietersen, Madosh Tambwe, Thaakir Abrahams, Aphelele Fassi.
* Don’t miss the final of our South African preview, the Stormers!