Planet Rugby

Super Rugby Preview: Sharks

09th February 2014 10:36

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Comeback: Frans Steyn

With the new Super Rugby season looming large on the horizon, we take a look at each of the 15 competitors. Next up, the Sharks!

Optimism is running high in Durban following the return of Jake White to South Africa and a new era for the franchise under CEO John Smit. But can the Sharks translate potential into success?

Last Year: One to forget for the Sharks, who won as many games as they lost - eight - and finished fourth in the South African Conference only above the Kings.

Overall the Sharks finished six points off the final wildcard spot taken by the Cheetahs, an indication of the gap they need to make up this season.

The absence of Bismarck du Plessis for such a long period in the middle of the season naturally was an issue, as were the other injuries - Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Jacques Botes and Ryan Kankowski to name a few - that hampered any sense of progress or ambitions for success.

It just shows what an effect losing so many frontline players can have, as the Sharks went from losing only once in their first seven games, to then only winning one of their next eight. Consistency is everything in Super Rugby and if you don't have it, you'll go nowhere.

This Year: With a healthy, deep squad and White at the helm, the sky is the limit for the Sharks. The Bulls have been decimated by departures, the Stormers' attack remains ineffective and the Cheetahs are light behind their star players, appearing to give the Sharks the advantage in the South African Conference.

Part of the reason for such optimism comes from the pack and at 10-12. An all Springbok front-row with Tendai Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers is peerless in Super Rugby, before adding Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel, Marcell Coetzee and of course Willem Alberts - it's a first-class set of forwards. Bringing in Lourens Adriaanse from the Cheetahs and Etienne Oosthuizen back from the Brumbies doesn't hurt.

That should give Pat Lambie and Steyn plenty of ball to work with. White appears to be dreaming of a flowing partnership between the two Springboks. Steyn is an interesting case, a World Cup winner at 19 who has seemingly drifted off the right path but now looks trimmer and ready to surge again.

Schedule wise, four matches at home to begin the season should give the Sharks the perfect head start. A three-game stretch taking on the Brumbies, Crusaders and Blues away from home will prove just how good this squad really is.

Key Players:

How can you not focus on Bismarck du Plessis. Named as captain of the squad for this season, the all-action hooker adds so much more than just set-piece work to this side. He is an example to follow in the loose and breakdown and should he stay fit, will no doubt guide the team to at least the knockout stages. Pieter-Steph du Toit behind is the new golden boy of Springbok rugby with an enormous future ahead of him. The Sharks though will need some tries to win this one, so look out for SP Marais at full-back, a recruit from the Kings.

Noteworthy Signings: Lourens Adriaanse (Cheetahs), Etienne Oosthuizen (Brumbies), Marco Wentzel (London Wasps), Tim Swiel (Western Province), SP Marais (Kings)

Noteworthy Losses: JC Janse van Rensburg, Craig Burden, Jandré Marais, Franco van der Merwe, Derick Minnie, Butch James, Meyer Bosman, Andries Coetzee, Louis Ludik, Riaan Viljoen

Prospects:

Topping the SA Conference might not be enough for the Sharks if they want to win the title, so a home semi-final is essential. Plenty rests on the shoulders of Lambie to come good and guide the team to success - it's time to see his potential converted into dominance.

With that pack that Sharks should have no excuses when it comes to creating an effective set-piece, giving numerous chances to the likes of Pietersen and Mvovo. This is a special squad, with an astute coach in White. Semi-Finals.

Fixtures:

Feb 15: v Bulls, home
Feb 22: v Hurricanes, home
Week 3: Bye
March 8: v Lions, home
March 15: v Reds, home
March 22: v Bulls, away
March 29: v Waratahs, home
Week 8: Bye
April 12: v Lions, away
April 19: Cheetahs, home
April 25: v Highlanders, home
May 2: v Rebels, away
May 10: v Brumbies, away
May 17: v Crusaders, away
May 23: v Blues, away
May 31: v Stormers, home
July 5: v Cheetahs, away
July 12: v Stormers, away

by Ben Coles
@bencoles_

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Super Rugby
Friday , April 18
Hurricanes vs Blues19:35
Melbourne Rebels vs Western Force19:40
Saturday , April 19
Chiefs vs Crusaders19:35
Waratahs vs Bulls19:00
Sharks vs Cheetahs15:00
Stormers vs Lions17:05
More Super Rugby fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Super Rugby
Saturday , April 12
Chiefs 22 - 16 Melbourne RebelsChiefs vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Western Force 28 - 16 WaratahsWestern Force vs Waratahs Report
Cheetahs 31 - 52 CrusadersCheetahs vs Crusaders Report
Lions 12 - 25 SharksLions vs Sharks Report
Friday , April 11
Highlanders 27 - 20 BullsHighlanders vs Bulls Report
Reds 20 - 23 BrumbiesReds vs Brumbies Report
More Super Rugby results
Heineken Cup
Sunday , April 6
Toulon 29 - 14 LeinsterToulon vs Leinster Report
Saturday , April 5
Munster 47 - 23 ToulouseMunster vs Toulouse Report
Clermont Auvergne 22 - 16 LeicesterClermont Auvergne vs Leicester Report
Ulster 15 - 17 SaracensUlster vs Saracens Report
More Heineken Cup results
Super Rugby
Hurricanes 25 - 20 BullsHurricanes vs Bulls Report
Lions 7 - 28 CrusadersLions vs Crusaders Report
Stormers 11 - 22 WaratahsStormers vs Waratahs Report
Cheetahs 43 - 43 ChiefsCheetahs vs Chiefs Report
Reds 29 - 32 Western ForceReds vs Western Force Report
Friday , April 4
Highlanders 33 - 30 Melbourne RebelsHighlanders vs Melbourne Rebels Report
Brumbies 26 - 9 BluesBrumbies vs Blues Report
Saturday , March 29
Blues 30 - 12 HighlandersBlues vs Highlanders Report
Reds 22 - 17 StormersReds vs Stormers Report
Sharks 32 - 10 WaratahsSharks vs Waratahs Report
Bulls 34 - 34 ChiefsBulls vs Chiefs Report
Friday , March 28
Crusaders 26 - 29 Hurricanes
Melbourne Rebels 32 - 24 Brumbies
Saturday , March 22
Blues 40 - 30 Cheetahs
Brumbies 25 - 15 Stormers
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Aviva Premiership Table
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1Saracens1976
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3Leicester Tigers1963
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5Harlequins1954