Following the conclusion of the Currie Cup, CRAIG LEWIS pinpoints three takeaways from the Sharks’ season with them finishing as runners-up.
Talented youngsters banked some invaluable experience
In the recent Currie Cup final, former Junior Springboks such as Jaden Hendrikse, Dylan Richardson, JJ van der Mescht and Fez Mbatha were all part of the starting lineup.
These youngsters – and several others – all enjoyed a memorable season gaining plenty of game time, and despite an agonising defeat in the title decider, the Sharks will take heart from the fact that important building blocks have been laid as a solid foundation for future success.
As the Sharks move into northern-hemisphere competition, they will need to balance talented youngsters with more experienced campaigners who have more experience of those conditions, but this past domestic season certainly allowed for a new generation of players to undergo important learning curves.
There’s a need to add more variety to their play
In the lead-up to the Currie Cup final, Vodacom Bulls coach Jake White was asked what he expected to face from the Sharks: ‘They kick more than any other team,’ he commented.
‘That style works for them. Curwin [Bosch] drops back behind all his teammates and kicks up-and-unders. It either comes off or it doesn’t, and the way you stop it is to make sure you secure possession, and don’t give them scraps to counter attack from contestable kicks.’
It was a similar assertion from most opposition players and coaches during the course of the season, with the Sharks’ identity as a prolific kicking team having become clear to see.
Yet, when the Sharks struggled with any inaccuracy of the kick-chase, or failed to have the field position and forward dominance to provide front-foot ball, the tactics became a bit predictable and one-dimensional at times.
The Sharks’ ability to vary their game will be something worth taking a closer look at during this short ‘off season’, but adaptability in approach would also be influenced by playing personnel, with new recruits to add depth in certain positions likely to bolster the options available to the Durban-based side.
Sharks continue to lead on transformation front
A transparent policy towards transformation, fostering a culture of inclusivity and diversity, is something the Sharks have undoubtedly been getting right for some time.
Just before the Currie Cup final, a tally of the numbers in a graphic from Netwerk24 showed that 61% of the Sharks’ player demographics throughout the competition were players of colour, significantly more than most other sides (WP Rugby were next with 47%).
There could be no arguments or questions around the Sharks’ selections being entirely merit-based, and their squad balance and manner in which they’ve embraced transformation should be celebrated.