New Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee might not go so far as to consider Sean Everitt as something akin to an uncle, but the Sharks coach admitted it is going to be tough seeing his former protégé leading the opposition in their decisive Rainbow Cup match in Durban on Saturday.
Coetzee started his professional career with the Sharks, having been schooled at Port Natal High School, and it was Everitt, then in charge of youth rugby at Kings Park, who guided him through the process of being a talented player from an unfashionable rugby school, through age group rugby to being nominated for SA Rugby’s Young Player of the Year award in 2012.
Three years later Coetzee made his Springbok debut and he moved to Ulster in 2016, where he established himself as a superstar.
“Marcell will always have a special place in Sharks fans’ hearts and it’s going to be quite sore to see him captain the Bulls after we brought him through from Port Natal,” Everitt said this week.
“He was magnificent last weekend and he’s been very good for Ulster too. But our guys want to prove themselves against the best and he’s certainly been one of the best in Europe.
“Marcell is motivated every week he puts on a rugby jersey, but he probably sees a bit of a gap in the Springbok set-up with Duane Vermeulen’s injury, and I’m sure there was a lot of disappointment at being left out so I have no doubt he wants to really put his hand up against us.”
Bulls coach Jake White is never shy to milk any sort of psychological advantage he can get and he was not slow to point out the difficulties facing the Sharks as they look to beat the Bulls with a bonus point, while also denying the visitors any log points, if Everitt is to take his team to Treviso next week for the Rainbow Cup final rather than to Kimberley for their Currie Cup opener.
“The Sharks are a good side, probably the one side that has consistently really pushed us and they play a solid, certain style of rugby,” White said.
“They will be motivated because they have to beat us comfortably, but in trying to play a bit differently, there’s the risk that they will present us with opportunities if their efforts don’t come off.
“If you try and run everything and you’ve never trained that way, then it could lead to disaster. It’s going to be interesting to see how they adapt to that.
“We know we just need one point, which we get if we score four tries, so we will also be going flat out for that. It’s like 50-over cricket, you know you can bat through the overs, but you need to score runs as well.”