The recruitment of visual expert Sherylle Calder is yet another shrewd move by Sharks director of rugby Jake White, according to JON CARDINELLI.
The Sharks are favourites to win the South African Super Rugby conference. They’ve long possessed the players to win this title, as well as the overall trophy.
That they haven’t finished top of the South African pile since the advent of the conference system is as much an indictment on their coaching staff than anything else. Indeed, a coaching shake-up was certainly needed after a failed 2013 campaign, and CEO John Smit should be commended for a tough but necessary decision to clean house.
The good news for Sharks fans is that the Durban side continues to shake things up. Smit brought Brendan Venter into the mix for the 2013 Currie Cup, and the Sharks went on to win the title. White has since taken over as director of rugby and continued to punt the progressive mantra, to ensure that this team remains ahead of the chasing pack.
Last week, the Sharks confirmed that Calder would be joining the franchise as a consultant for the next two years. Her visual training methods are designed to enhance an athlete's skills, and she has to date helped scores across various sporting codes realise their ambitions.
Hers is a name synonymous with sporting success, and one that is instantly recognised in rugby circles. Calder was part of Clive Woodward’s coaching staff in 2003, and worked closely with the player who would eventually win the World Cup for England, namely Jonny Wilkinson.
White brought Calder into the mix while he was coaching the Boks, and told anybody who would listen that she had made a subtle yet significant difference to the Boks' performance.
Hers is a name synonymous with sporting success, and one that is instantly recognised in rugby circles
Bryan Habana is another who swears by Calder’s methods. As the record reflects, Habana was the standout player for the Boks during their march to the 2007 World Cup title. Since resuming his visual training in 2012, Habana has recaptured the form of old.
In 2012, Demetri Catrakilis went to Calder in his personal capacity and asked her to make him the best kicker in the South Africa. Calder’s visual training methods would help Catrakilis fulfill his potential, as he not only kicked Western Province to a Currie Cup title, but finished the 2012 season with the best goal-kicking success rate.
White made use of Calder’s expertise while he was coaching the Brumbies, and they progressed to the 2013 Super Rugby final. If White had won the Wallabies coaching position, Calder may have been brought in a consultant. If things had turned out differently, Calder could now be tutoring Quade Cooper and Will Genia instead of Pat Lambie and Frans Steyn.
Australia’s loss is the Sharks’ gain. White has made some big statements thus far about the Sharks’ title prospects, and the savvy recruitment of various consultants and players in the pre-season will show that he has reason to feel confident.
With regards to Calder’s appointment, White hopes that the visual expert will help the Sharks kickers realise their full potential, just as she helped Catrakilis in 2012
A last-minute penalty or conversion can mean the difference between victory and defeat. The accuracy of the Sharks’ tactical kicking game will also be sharpened, and thus the Sharks' bid for a title will be strengthened
Catrakilis will bring something new to the Stormers' game. In that sense, the Stormers will benefit indirectly from Calder’s expertise.
The Sharks, however, will enjoy the full benefit of Calder's input. White and Calder have formed a successful partnership at Test and Super Rugby levels, and their current working relationship should see the Sharks moving further ahead of the chasing South African pack.