Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach have endured a wretched time when it comes to injury in recent Super Rugby seasons.
But Sharks backline coach Sean Everitt is excited about being able to field a top-class halfback pair in this year’s campaign.
“That’s where we’ve fallen short in the last couple of years, losing Pat early and then Cobus being unlucky in the last few years. It meant they missed a lot of Super Rugby and it’s never easy for a team to lose their first-choice halfbacks,” he said.
“And Super Rugby is not really the sort of tournament you want to breed youngsters in, that’s more for the Currie Cup.”
Not that the rookies are being sidelined.
“The youngsters are important and they’ve been working hard, because Pat has to rest at some stage. Innocent Radebe and Benhard Janse van Rensburg have done well in the No 10 jersey and Curwin Bosch can play flyhalf as well,” said Everitt.
“Cobus will certainly provide some x-factor, he’s an opportunist, but he does the basics well and has a good boot too. He’s been here a long time, he knows the systems well and he delivers,” Everitt said.
While experience at nine and 10 will obviously be cherished by the Sharks, there are youngsters challenging for other backline places.
“The youngsters have a lot of enthusiasm and since losing JP Pietersen, Willie le Roux and Odwa Ndungane last year, the Currie Cup bunch have grown considerably. They’ve played themselves into contention and that’s exciting,” said Everitt.
“We have Kobus van Wyk on the wing, although we will look at him at centre if we have problems there. But Lukhanyo Am has done well in the Currie Cup and has had good preparation, so we’ll be looking to build up his combination with Andre Esterhuizen.
“Jeremy Ward is obviously a good signing because he was one of the top age-group players in his position (centre) last year and we mustn’t forget Johan Deysel from the Leopards, who played in the 2015 World Cup for Namibia.”
To balance the youthful look of the backline, there’s also the presence of veteran French fullback Clement Poitrenaud.
The 34-year-old utility back he will play a leadership role by guiding the young backline.
“Clement is in contention for selection in the match-day 23, he has a lot of experience having played 47 Tests. We have a young backline, so he will be good for us, leading and helping those guys,” said Everitt.
“He’s very popular among his team-mates, his English is quite good and he has a good sense of humour. Most importantly, the guys admire his skill-set.”