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Sharks Super Rugby 2014: The front row

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 16 Jan 2014 at 10:49
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

While the Sharks have yet to announce a formal Super Rugby squad for 2014, we should be able to put together a pretty good idea of who the likely options are.

Our information is that Jake White and his co-coaches have trimmed down from the big group they were working with before the Christmas break, meaning that a smattering of rather unfortunate players find themselves out of Super Rugby contention for the time being.

Over the course of a few articles, we’ll have a look at who’s left (to the best of our knowledge) starting with the front row. To our knowledge, five props remain, with Danie Mienie released to the Sharks Vodacom Cup squad and Lizo Gqoboka sent back to the Kings.

Loosehead will be covered by Tendai Mtawarira and Dale Chadwick, with the former obviously the first choice. Beast showed on his return from injury last year just what a galvanising effect he has on the pack and for Jake White and Paul Anthony, a key goal for the year has to be to develop an alternate option at loosehead prop who is equally good. Chadwick will continue to develop and is by no means an inexperienced player any more, but one feels that this season may well be a defining one for him. It’s time for him to step up and deliver the sort of performances that reassure fans that he is the right guy to take over from Beast in the medium term.

The lack of a third option at loosehead is concerning, but Mienie is, I’m sure, by no means completely out of the picture and would come into the reckoning again should injury strike.

The other side of the scrum is, if anything, a little overstocked and if the composition of the Saracens tour party is anything to go by, then poor Wiehahn Herbst looks set to play only a bit part as the pair of Bok tightheads, Jannie du Plessis and Lourens Adriaanse, duke it out for top spot. One of the clearest challenges that White will have going into his first campaign will be figuring out how to keep his large squad fit, motivated and match fit and this most crucial of positions will offer him no lack of opportunists to face that challenge.

Hooker is probably a pretty easy one, by comparison. Young Franco Marais is the man who has lost out (for the time being), leaving Bismarck du Plessis, Kyle Cooper and Monde Hadebe as the three in the squad, pretty much in that exact pecking order too. The challenge here will, of course, again be to manage the expectations, particularly given Bismarck’s, shall we say, “reluctance” to accept substitution. As possibly the best in his position in the world at the moment, there’s very little doubt that du Plessis will be the man to play the bulk of the games, but it is vitally important to keep both Cooper and Hadebe sharp as well, because injuries are a fact of life at this level. Hadebe’s role will be difficult this year, as the third hooker, while a vital extended squad member, often battles for game time.

It will be interesting to see what sort of policy emerges regarding the use of Super Rugby squad members in the Vodacom Cup team, as both Hadebe and Herbst could have a huge role to play there when not needed for Super Rugby duty.

Whatever the case, though, few could argue that the Sharks go into this year’s competition boasting what must surely be the strongest front row of any of the teams in question.


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