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Currie Cup: the broad strokes

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 18 Jun 2015 at 12:10
Tagged with : , , , , ,

It seems premature to be talking Currie Cup, since we don’t even have a confirmed coaching lineup for that competition yet, but already some areas of concern are emerging, as uncertainty about players’ futures in Durban dominate the headlines. I thought it might make sense to do a preliminary analysis of who is likely to be in the mix from a playing perspective, even though we know things could yet change.

Out go Jannie du Plessis and Matt Stevens (we think), while it’s safe to assume that Beast Mtawarira isn’t going to feature in Currie Cup this year. That leaves the established back ups of Dale Chadwick and Lourens Adriaanse to bear the brunt, with Thomas du Toit (in whatever capacity) as the third choice. It doesn’t take a genius to spot that there’s a clear depth issue here. Marne Coetzee would be next in line as tighthead option, while Barend Potgieter is a promising loosehead form the under 21 ranks that could also feature in a pinch. We know that the Sharks have looked at a number of props from elsewhere on a trial basis, but as yet, no confirmed signing has been made. This is a very definite area of concern.

In the number 2 jersey, the team appears well served. Bismarck du Plessis is, of course, irreplaceable but in Kyle Cooper, Monde Hadebe and Franco Marais, the Sharks have three former Junior Springbok hookers on their books, all of whom will look to use this Currie Cup season to underline their credentials for Super Rugby next year. Chris de Beer is the man in the under 21 ranks who will look to add pressure from below.

In this case, injury has again struck the Sharks and done so cruelly. With Pieter-Steph du Toit and Stephan Lewies both back on the long-term casualty list (and Giant Mtayanda heading back to the Pumas for Currie Cup) the second row stocks again look alarmingly thin. Marco Wentzel will again prove a critical player at 5, with JC Astle or even young Hyron Andrews deputising in the lineout role, while Etienne Oosthuizen (barring any emergencies at 7) and Mouritz Botha will cover the number 4 spot. With few locks of any proven quality in the under 21 ranks (bar Andrews) the Sharks again look to be in a real second row pickle with an eye on Super Rugby 2016.

Loose forward
Willem Alberts is gone, while Ryan Kankowski and Renaldo Bothma won’t be available for Currie Cup. Assuming Marcell Coetzee’s Bok commitments and Tera Mtembu’s injury keep both out of the Currie Cup frame then there’s a fair bit of an experience gap created, with Jean Deysel set to play a key role. Khaya Majola and Francois Kleinhans will cover open side, with new man Philip van der Walt joining the du Preez brothers as foils for Deysel across the blindside and number 8 positions. It’s a decent enough group at Currie Cup level, but probably underlines why it’s so critical to retain Coetzee moving forward.

The larder appears well-stocked, with Stephan Ungerer, Conrad Hoffmann, Michael Claassens and Hanco Venter all available for Currie Cup. Cobus Reinach is expected to be with the Bok World Cup squad.

Pat Lambie isn’t expected to play due to Bok commitments, while Fred Zeilinga has left to join the Cheetahs. Lionel Cronje stepped up in a very timely fashion and must be the man with the inside track for Currie Cup, while the acquisition of Joe Pietersen and (hopefully) the emergence of Inny-Christian Radebe will ensure quality depth. Garth April is another man who will come into the frame, but may also be used at fullback. Flyhalf actually looks pretty good for the Sharks, for the time being at least.

Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen are the only losses in midfield, leaving the Sharks rather well stocked. Andre Esterhuizen, Heimar Williams, Paul Jordaan and Waylon Murray are the obvious names, while it’s really to be hoped that S’bura Sithole might be used as a 13 option in Currie Cup. A number of youngsters, including Tyler Fisher, Neil Maritz and Marius Louw will look to add depth, with Louw the one most likely to make a big impact at this level if afforded the opportunity.

Outside back
Lwazi Mvovo is the only man in with a shot at Bok selection, meaning a relatively large and mostly settled group for the Sharks to pick from. Odwa Ndungane will still be there, with SP Marais, Sithole, Jack Wilson, Tonderai Chavhanga, Sizo Maseko and possibly Wandile Mjekevu (if he has signed) all in the mix. April and Pietersen are both capable fullback options, while young Alcino Izaacs will also look to make the step up.

All in all, it doesn’t look too bad for the Sharks, although prop and lock are areas of real concern.


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