Director of rugby Gary Gold says while the Sharks are in transition, they can't use it as an excuse this Vodacom Super Rugby season, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
There has been a changing of the guard at the Sharks following the departure of seasoned Boks such as Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts, Frans Steyn and Jannie du Plessis, while the likes of Willie le Roux, Coenie Oosthuizen and Jacques Potgieter are new signings for 2016.
Besides the appointment of a new captain and vice-captain in Pat Lambie and Marcell Coetzee, assistant coaches Ryan Strudwick, Robert du Preez and Omar Mouneimne are all set for their first Super Rugby season with the Sharks.
Gold said there had been plenty of introspection since the disappointments of last season, and that they had now put that behind them.
‘I think we needed to assess the whole of last year, our frailties and shortcomings, and I think we’ve done that objectively. They say the definition of insanity is if you keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So, we’ve made some changes, knuckled down and done a lot of hard work. I think there will be a lot more demands in this competition, but we realise that and are preparing accordingly.
‘I think we are still in transition as a team, but that can’t be seen as an excuse and not for one second can we shy away from the task at hand. Obviously you can’t lose the quality of players that we have and just think it’s going to be easy to replace them, but we believe we have some great youngsters who have no shortage of enthusiasm and excitement to play for the Sharks. We have a wonderful group of players here who need to step up.’
The Sharks kick off their Super Rugby campaign against the Southern Kings on 27 February, and Gold said he had been encouraged by the work completed during the pre-season.
‘It is a new chapter, and for many guys it will be their first full season and proper experience of Super Rugby, but I think if you’re good enough you’re old enough. With Pat as captain it’s a new voice and a new leadership style. There’s no doubt that he’s hugely respected, he speaks a huge amount of sense and I think the players love being led by him.’
Lambie, who did form part of the Sharks’ leadership group last year, said he was looking forward to his new role as designated captain.
‘I’m not one for many words but I’d just like to set the example this year, and remain the same person regardless. We have a number of strong leaders in this squad and there will also be an element of sharing leadership responsibility.
‘There is a different feel [at the Sharks] this season,’ he added. ‘We’ve said goodbye to a number of world-class players with big personalities. We have some younger players still trying to make a name for themselves, but there are also still quite a few guys who have been part of the Sharks set-up for a number of years. We’re just wanting to put the past season behind us and move on.’
Lambie said they were hoping to embrace an attractive brand of rugby this season.
‘We’ve done a lot of pre-season research and the sides that have won Super Rugby over the last couple of years have been the sides that have scored the most tries. It is a focus point for us and we do want to play a nice attacking brand of rugby, which will hopefully bring positive results and attract fans to the ground.’
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images