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You don’t get more home grown than this…

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Vodacom Cup on 30 Mar 2012 at 12:00
Tagged with : , , ,

Running the rule over the Sharks XV side named to play SWD at Kings Park this evening, it’s astonishing to note that 19 out of the match 22 have come through the Sharks age group structures and the Academy.

With around half of the Sharks Super Rugby tour squad boasting similar credentials, along with an injury list including further Academy alumni in Beast Mtawarira, Julian Redelinghuys, Alistair Hargreaves and Ryan Kankowski, it’s fair to say that the balance seems to have quite firmly shifted in favour of the promotion of locally-developed talent. With the Sharks bringing in relatively few experienced senior players this season, any departures seem to have been back-filled from within the youth ranks and whether his situation has come about by design, or simply through lack of budget, the situation is, to me, a pleasing one nonetheless.

There is not a single member of the Sharks XV pack – starting or reserve – who has not attended the Academy and represented the Sharks at some level of junior rugby, while amongst the backs, Wandile Mjekevu is the only “import” in the starting line up. Mjekevu, though, has been recruited as an under 21 player after being released by the Lions and probably represents exactly the sort of player we should be investing in. The other import is Conrad Hoffmann, while Jors Dannhauser in fact did play for KZN at Craven Week level. His story has a real Cinderella angle to it, though, as he’s fought his way up through the local club scene to come into contention. Jors may not be an Academy boy per se, but this Vryheid lad is a Natalian through-and-through and is just as deserving of the term “home grown”.

Even more impressive is to note the relative increase in the number of boys schooled in the province who are making their way up through the ranks. Westville Boys High has three representatives in the side in Monde Hadebe, Bry Stander and Khaya Majola, with Glenwood’s Fred Zeilinga and Kyle Cooper and Pionier’s Dannhauser the other locally-schooled representatives. The Eastern Cape remains a great source of talent, though, with Allan Dell and Sbura Sithole (both Queens first XV captains and head boys), Tera Mtembu (Dale), Chris Cloete (Selborne), Rosco Speckman (Mary Waters) and Gouws Prinsloo (Marlowe) all hailing from that part of the world. The importance of Grey Kollege as a feeder seems to be dropping off a bit, with only two old boys in Cobus Reinach and Piet Lindeque in the squad, while Peet Marais from Welkom Gim is the third Free State representative. The Western Cape, too, is quite well represented with two Paarl Boys High students in Hofmann and Maks van Dyk, along with Piet-Steph du Toit (Swartland) and Braam Steyn (Paul Roos). The balance hail from the somewhat under-represented northern lands, with Danie Mienie (Merensky), Mjekevu (KES) and Heimar Williams (Affies) having swapped the barren highveld for the golden sands of Durban.

Another interesting observation is that Conrad Hoffmann is the oldest player in the team, at the ripe age of 24!

The challenge for the Sharks is two-fold; firstly, they must prove that this team of players that has been selected and nurtured through the structures has the goods to do the union proud, which means a credible performance in this year’s Vodacom Cup, despite their lack of experience. The second is to ensure that through proper succession planning, as many of these players as possible are retained and groomed for higher honours, with the emphasis continually and firmly placed on promotion from within, rather than recruitment from outside.


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