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The only way is up!


Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 1 Jul 2015 at 10:07
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

New Sharks under 21 head coach Michael Horak certainly has a tough task ahead of him, with his side set to kick off their 2015 campaign next Saturday away to beaten 2014 finalists Western Province. If that’s not bad enough, Horak (who took over leadership of the team from Ryan Strudwick just a couple of weeks ago) faces a trip to Loftus to face the champion Blue Bulls in week two.

Last year’s campaign was a disappointing one indeed for the Sharks under 21 side, with the team losing 7 of their 12 fixtures and ending fifth. There is, however, every reason for optimism in 2015 – a number of last year’s players are still available, with a year’s more experience, while Horak will also be boosted by the inclusion of a group of incredibly talented boys from last year’s under 19 side. Let’s not forget that 2014′s Sharks under 19 team handed the Bulls a 50-pointer at Kings Park last year and the spine of that side will stiffen the under 21 ranks this year.

Perhaps most important, though, is the new “Grey Squad” concept implemented by the Sharks at the start of this year. Unlike previous seasons, when the age-group teams were hastily assembled on the eve of each competition, 2015′s group of young players have been working and training together since January and it is hoped there will be far greater cohesion at the start of this campaign than has been the case in years gone by.

While not quite as “star studded” as the squads boasted by the likes of Western Province or the Bulls, the Sharks under 21 class of 2015 nonetheless boasts quality. Thomas du Toit is unlikely to play much under 21 rugby (despite eligibility) but in Junior Bok Mzamo Majola, Ruan Kramer, Barend Potgieter and Mees Erasmus there is prop depth aplenty. Chris de Beer (a strong candidate for captaincy) should be starting hooker, backed up by former Grey boy Andrew du Plessis and Cohen Wortley, while Johan du Toit and Hyron Andrews are expected to form the mainstay of the second row. Andrews may find himself called up to Currie Cup rugby at some stage, but there is further lock depth in Jean Droste (an off-season acquisition from Pretoria) and Petrus du Busson.

Graham Geldenhuys, a Rondebosch boy who played under 19 rugby for WP last year, will compete with Ray Williams for the number 6 jersey, while Ayron Schramm, Sias Koen and Retief Marais are likely to cover the rest of the back row, assuming the du Preez twins are called up to the senior ranks.

It’s at the back, though, where the excitement lurks, with young flyhalf Inny-Christian Radebe the toast of the town. With UKZN Impi scrumhalf partner Rowan Gouws beside him, much is expected of Radebe; perhaps the only real risk here is whether he too will be called up for senior action this season. Sandile Khubeka and Josh Bragman will deputise (with the former also comfortable at inside centre. Another young man who made great strides with the Impi is Marra Louw, who will be looking to cement a position as first-choice at inside centre, while Legend Marwana (who played a bit of Vodacom Cup this year) and young Marcel Coetzee are good options at outside centre.

Mike Cloete, Neil Maritz, Alrin Eksteen and Sipho Mkhize all return from last year’s team as outside back options, bolstered by the likes of Merlyn Pieterse and Kelvin Elder from the under 19s. Also look out for big winger-cum-fullback Sbusiso Nkosi, who still qualifies for under 19 rugby this year but might make a surprise appearance or two in the under 21 side.



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