Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold is excited with the balance between experience and youth in his squad for this year's Currie Cup.
Preparations for the tournament began this week and despite a Sharks squad strongly affected through player losses to the Springboks, injuries and overseas, there appears to be no shortage of depth.
Traditionally, the Sharks do have it tough, losing around 10 players to the Springbok cause each year, but this year’s disappointing Super Rugby campaign had one silver lining – the massive injury toll forced younger players to be thrown into the arena, to be tested.
They certainly weren’t found wanting and Gold believes the experience they gained can only stand the Sharks in good stead for the upcoming Currie Cup and beyond.
“I’m very excited about the team, about the balance between the young players who are so enthusiastic and a couple of older guys we have,” he said.
“We have plenty of experience in Jean Deysel and Marco Wentzel, and Philip van der Walt has joined us now and he’s looked particularly impressive.
"Michael Claassens has been very impressive too, likewise Joe Pietersen, and [backline coach] Sean Everitt must be licking his lips with the backs that we have.
“We have such an exciting backline: with Andre Esterhuizen who played so well, S’bura [Sithole] too, Odwa [Ndungane], I thought was very good; to name a few.
"We have a really good balance this year with a little bit of experience but a lot of youth. We also have the SA U20 players coming back in. It’s exciting times at the moment.”
Of particular interest is the style of rugby to be played, and Currie Cup often sees exciting running rugby.
Of course, without a mobile side, including the forwards, you’re always going to battle to play the game at pace, and given the stocks available, Gold felt that he had the players to inject excitement into their play.
“If you take just one position – lock – Etienne Oosthuizen will go to second row, he’s played back row in Super Rugby, you have those kinds of mobile players in the second row which can only stand you in good stead," added Gold.
"Then there’s Philip van der Walt, Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez, Khaya Majola and Jean Deysel to pick from in the back row, we have quite a mobile team. I think it can lead to some exciting rugby.”