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A culture shock

Written by Pierre McLeod (pierre_mackie)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks on 3 Nov 2015 at 10:11
Tagged with : , , , , ,

A lot has been said about the Sharks culture or the lack there of in recent months after a dismal Super Rugby and Currie Cup season. A lot has been said about the group of players and questions asked about whether they understand the culture of Sharks Rugby.

Questions have also been asked about the Sharks’ latest recruits; it’s been said that they are mercenaries, as pointed out by a tweet from Ollie le Roux directed at the latest Sharks signing, Chiliboy Ralepelle.

“@OllieLeRoux: @StefanT15 @sharksworld @Ruann7 @GaryGoldrugbyiq another mercenary that does not understand Shark culture…”

Now, it would probably be unfair to paint all players with the same brush when it comes to understanding the Sharks culture.

Sharks culture, is it a mythical gesture or is there really such a thing and if there is what is it? To quote a recent tweet from former Sharks captain Stefan Terblanche: “Sharks Culture something special hard to describe.”

Sharks culture is synonymous with the “glory years” of the ’90s. Legendary coach Ian McIntosh along with a group of players which are too many to name started a special thing in 1990 when they won the their first Currie Cup trophy against Northern Transvaal in Pretoria. Could this have been the start of the notorious “culture”?

Not only did McIntosh create a culture that attracted players like Henry Honiball, Andre Joubert, Ollie le Roux and Pieter Muller, but he also managed to create a winning culture amongst the Banana Boys as they won their second Currie Cup trophy in 1992. In 1993, Natal played in their third final, but lost to Transvaal in Durban.

In 1995 the Banana Boys were rebranded as the Sharks and the culture that had been created over the last four years welcomed the likes of Mark Andrews, Adrian Garvey, Cabous van der Westhuizen, Kevin Putt, James Small and even French Internationals Olivier Roumat and Thierry Lacroix. The newly branded Sharks also won their third trophy at their fourth attempt.

The winning culture continued with an unbeaten season in 1996 when the Sharks won back-to-back trophies, but not only did they enjoy Currie Cup glory they also played in the Super 12 final. Despite losing against the Auckland Blues, James Small finished on top of the try scorers list followed by fellow Sharks team mate Andre Joubert. They also reached the Super Rugby semi-final in 1997 and 1998. The Sharks finished the ’90s with their sixth Currie Cup final, but they were unable to give coach McIntosh, captain Gary Teichmann, Joubert and Honiball a favourable farewell.

It’s been said that the current Sharks squad does not have enough local players that were schooled in KwaZulu-Natal and does not know and understand the culture and honour of what it means to play in the “Black and White” jersey like the players from yesteryear. Interestingly, none of the above mentioned players were born and bred in Durban, yet they understood what it meant to wear the jersey with pride and to leave their blood, sweat and tears on the field as they play for the union and the fans.

For the Sharks and their faithful fans they had to wait twelve years to see another successful Currie Cup campaign, despite playing in the 2000, 2001 and 2003 finals. They also made the Super Rugby semi-final in 2008 and again under a non Durbanite coach in John Plumtree. The new era under Plumtree also came new Sharks heros in Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockott, Beast Mtawarira, JP Pietersen, Bismarck du Plessis, Keegan Daniel and Ryan Kankowski along with another French International in Frederic Michalak.

Plumtree brought joy back to the Sharks fans as they reclaimed the Currie Cup in 2010, they qualified again for the 2011 final but lost to the Lions at Ellis Park. Interestingly (again), none of the above mentioned players where born and bred in Durban, yet they understood what it meant to wear the jersey with pride and to leave their blood, sweat and tears on the field as they play for the union and the fans.

Seeing that most of the Sharks’ success is based on non-Durbanites, I took the opportunity to ask the robust on-loan flanker Renaldo Bothma what it meant for him to play for the Sharks.

As a junior he played his rugby in Durban and fell in love with the culture created by the public and the style of rugby being played.

“Because of the brands success it has always been a desire to play for the Sharks, and when the opportunity came along it wasn’t a difficult decision to make”

“I think Natal Rugby has come along away. They have produced a lot of legends, and it just shows the union’s ability to produce world class players.”

Bothma added that the time is now for a new generation of players. “The Sharks have had a great bunch of players over the last couple of years and even though they willl be missed the time has come to move on.”

“I think it’s the perfect time to build another team like that over the next few years and that is exactly what is busy happening. I am very excited about the next couple of years at the Sharks.”

“Every union undergoes success and failure, that’s life. Every union goes through ups and downs and that is unfortunately the time things don’t always goes as plan, but in the end the bigger picture will always prevail.”

It seems like this Sharks culture everyone is refering to is largely something that’s been created by their loyal and passionate “black and white nothing else matters”, “Sharks forever” fans. The fans are the ones that have been carrying the team over the last twenty five years.

In closing Bothma added, “It’s our responsibility as players to produce the goods on the field, and to show the supporters why they love supporting the Sharks,” and, “for me personally, it’s an honour to run onto that beautiful stadium and to play in front of the loyal fans.”

The best way for players to honour the Sharks Rugby culture is respect the players that have been there before them, respect the jersey and last but not least respect the passionate supporters that live for the Sharks brand.


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