• Lethal Sharks have more to offer

    From a purely rugby perspective, it would be desperately disappointing if the Sharks were unable to complete a season under threat of being scrapped, writes CRAIG LEWIS.

    In these uncertain times, sport has to quite understandably take a back seat to the global health and safety concerns caused by the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.

    Rugby, and most sports events, have gone into shutdown. It’s the correct move, but sports lovers are already wondering where their next ‘fix’ of live action will come from.

    For Sharks fans, it’s particular agony. Indeed, it has been years since the Durban side has looked so well equipped to launch a real charge for the Vodacom Super Rugby title, and deservedly finished the last round of action at the summit of the overall standings.

    Before this season started, it was difficult to know just what to expect from the Sharks.

    In the Super Rugby preview edition of SA Rugby magazine at the beginning of the year, I rather cheekily wrote that it was tempting to use the phrase ‘always the bridesmaid, but never the bride’ when reflecting on the Sharks’ recent run of results in Super Rugby.

    Over the past four seasons, they had managed to sneak through to the first round of the playoffs, but failed to progress beyond that. For fans, it’s been a combination of regular highs and lows.

    And coming into 2020, with a different coach in Sean Everitt and a new-look side after the departure of Springboks such as the Du Preez brothers, Beast Mtawarira and Akker van der Merwe, the Sharks flew under the radar.

    No one was really talking the Sharks up as title or conference contenders, but over in Durban, the coastal side was quietly going about the business of remodelling their game and embracing a team-first culture.

    Over the first seven rounds of action, they duly went about executing a balance of pragmatic but equally positive play, and the end result has been six wins from seven matches.

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    New recruits such as Ox Nche, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, James Venter, Madosh Tambwe have made an impact, while youngsters like Kerron van Vuuren, Ruben van Heerden, Sanele Nohamba, Curwin Bosch and Aphelele Fassi have added real dynamism to proceedings.

    Throw into the mix the continued form of Boks such as Andre Esterhuizen, Lukhanyo Am and Makazole Mapimpi, and the Sharks have had a winning on-field recipe to go with a culture of inclusivity and brotherhood fostered by Everitt and new CEO Eduard Coetzee.

    After the Sharks overcame the Stormers this past Saturday, Everitt’s words should not go unnoticed.

    ‘When you get results and you’re preforming, it builds belief that we’re on the right track. There was a certain amount of risk coming into this season with the things we changed, and I didn’t realise the team would get it right as quickly as they have,’ he commented.

    ‘But, in saying that, we chatted to the team this past week and one of the things Ox [Nche] came up with is that the coaches only have to talk to the players once and then they just get on with it. I think that sums up what we have in front of us: it’s just a team that loves playing and prepares really well. So, I’m really proud of them.’

    When it came to discussing the enforced competition hiatus, Everitt saw the silver lining and suggested they would welcome the break after an intensive period of action that had left his side ‘knackered’. Yet, as concerns and precautionary action only continues to escalate over Covid-19, there is the very real possibility that Super Rugby will not be able to resume.

    It would be a rugby calamity, none more so for the Sharks and some of their long-suffering fans who have been crying out for a team to finally bury the ghosts that have haunted ever since the heart-breaking loss in the 2007 Super Rugby final.

    One can only hope that this close-knit team is able to get back into action sooner rather than later.

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    Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Hollywoodbets

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    Craig Lewis