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The irreplacables: 2015 edition

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 14 Jan 2015 at 10:30
Tagged with : , , , , , , ,

Injury: it’s a factor in every Super Rugby campaign. There’s not a lot you can really do about it, other than do as much as you can in pre-season to ensure the bodies are strong and then hope like hell that a bit of good luck and a lot of depth gets you through the season.

Injury is a cruel mistress though. No squad can ever be uniformly deep across all positions – the nature of the professional game makes it incredibly hard to keep quality players in a system where they know they have to play second fiddle. Most years, you’ll start off with a lot of depth in some positions, while there will be others where an injury or two could leave you exposed. That’s kind of where the luck comes into the equation – it’s not that you hope for no injuries; rather, you hope for injuries only in those positions where you have sufficient depth.

The Sharks have bought well during the off-season in the areas where they could, to the effect that they now boast great depth amongst the tight forwards. Lock, in particular, has been nicely shored up and now looks like an area of strength, rather than weakness. Other positions, though, are not as well covered.

Let’s look at the five “irreplaceable” players for the Sharks in 2015; those guys whose continued fitness is vital to the cause, simply because there isn’t enough (experienced) cover in the squad in their positions.

Marcell Coetzee. In a squad ravaged by loose forward departures over the last year, Coetzee remains the only open side option proven at this level. Francois Kleinhans and Khaya Majola are the backups and while promising, neither has yet played Super Rugby.
Cobus Reinach. The oft-uninspiring Conrad Hoffmann aside, Reinach’s understudies for the scrumhalf position are a trio of greenhorns in Stefan Ungerer, Cameron Wright and Hanco Venter. All three show great promise, but the squad is seriously lacking in experience in the vital number 9 position.
S’bura Sithole. With Paul Jordaan sidelined, Sithole (who just last year was still a struggling wing) now stands alone as the outside centre option in the squad. JP Pietersen is a stopgap, while it remains to be seen how well Waylon Murray steps up in his second life at the Sharks. Youngsters Tyler Fisher and Neil Maritz have a golden opportunity to stake a claim.
Lwazi Mvovo. We have the opposite problem here, in that Lwazi’s back-up – the likes of Tondie Chavhanga and Odwa Ndungane – perhaps have a little too much “experience” and not quite as much left in the tank as we’d like. There are other options – I’m thinking mostly of the untried Jack Wilson – but the Sharks lack another winger of Mvovo’s proven quality.
SP Marais. After a forgettable 2014, we’re going to see a different SP this year. He’s going to need to be at his best, because recognised fullback options in the squad are thin on the ground. Jaco van Tonder is the only other specialist in the position, while Lionel Cronje and Tim Swiel may both find themselves spending more of their season at 15 than at 10.

Let’s raise a glass to each one in the hope that the injury gods will spare them particularly this year.


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