Rugby 27.1.2018 02:06 pm

We give our verdict on the Sharks’ Super Rugby squad

Are the Sharks and Robert du Preez jr ready to play ball? (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Are the Sharks and Robert du Preez jr ready to play ball? (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Coach Robert du Preez has gone for quantity in his group. Will the quality also be evident in 2018?

The Sharks followed the example of the Bulls earlier this week in announcing their Super Rugby squad reasonably early.

Coach Robert du Preez was so torn between who to pick and leave out that he actually used the maximum allowance of a 45-man squad.

Naturally, that substantial amount of players gives one a clearer picture of the real depth at the franchise.

So, how do they stack up.

Here’s our verdict.

FULLBACKS: Rhyno Smith, Garth April, Courtney Winnaar

Garth April. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Garth April. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

The irony about the No 15 position for the Sharks is that they actually only have one specialist in Rhyno Smith.

But for the past two years there’s been a premium on utility backs in the Sharks line-ups.

Garth April is an accomplished performer, Lwazi Mvovo was switched there from the wing as far back as the John Plumtree era and Curwin Bosch actually made his name there initially.

There are heaps of options here … but are there too much?

VERDICT: Choices galore yet clarity on a first-choice would be good

WINGS: Kobus van Wyk, Makazole Mapimpi, Sbu Nkosi, Leolin Zas, Lwazi Mvovo

Sbu Nkosi. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Sbu Nkosi. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Du Preez admitted he’s relishing the prospect of seeing this group competing for places.

The addition of Mapimpi is vital as he brings raw pace and try-scoring ability to a group that’s sometimes more solid than spectacular.

Sbu Nkosi though is a star in the making and needs as much game-time as possible.

VERDICT: An undoubted strength of the side

CENTRES: Andre Esterhuizen, Lukhanyo Am, Marius Louw, Tristan Blewett, Johan Deysel, Jeremy Ward

Lukhanyo Am. (Photo by Gordon Arons

Lukhanyo Am. (Photo by Gordon Arons

Like the wings, there are a lot of options here and arguably a case to be made for a rotation system throughout the season.

Lukhanyo Am’s organisational ability means he’s probably a guaranteed starter but who will be his partner?

Marius Louw was a nice find in the Currie Cup with his bustling style of play while Andre Esterhuizen played flyhalf in Japan.

Could that make him more versatile?

VERDICT: Another position that’s well-stocked but it might lack a bit of spark

FLYHALVES: Curwin Bosch, Robert du Preez jr

Curwin Bosch. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Curwin Bosch. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

If the Sharks wanted competition of the highest order, they found it here.

In terms of national interest, this is probably the year Curwin Bosch needs to make the position his own.

But Du Preez jr’s form in the Currie Cup was so good that there were calls for him to join the Springboks in Europe.

If the import from Western Province sets the scene alight, will Bosch go back to 15?

VERDICT: This could get fun… 

SCRUMHALVES: Louis Schreuder, Michael Claassens, Cameron Wright, Grant Williams

Louis Schreuder. (Photo by Steve Haag/ Gallo Images)

Louis Schreuder. (Photo by Steve Haag/ Gallo Images)

Given that he was in the national frame last season, Louis Schreuder will be keen to further prove that he belongs in the elite category of local scrumhalves. (It isn’t a position with world-class talent locally though)

He has a wily deputy in Michael Claassens but an injury could be disruptive.

Cameron Wright is still a relatively unknown factor though it’s hoped his stint in France added value to his game.

VERDICT: Much will depend on Schreuder’s ability to continue elevating his game

LOOSE FORWARDS: Dan du Preez, Jean-Luc du Preez, Keegan Daniel, Philip van der Walt, Wian Vosloo, Tyler Paul, Jacques Vermeulen, Tera Mtembu

Philip van der Walt. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Philip van der Walt. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

There’s little to quibble about here.

The Du Preez twins and Jacques Vermeulen are gifted, hulking ball-carriers while Tyler Paul has added versatility to the mix with his ability to play an athletic lock too.

But the bolter is the experienced Philip van der Walt, a tireless workhorse with remarkable consistency though this group won’t win any awards for aesthetics.

VERDICT: You wouldn’t want to try and tackle these guys but they maybe lack finesse

LOCKS: Ruan Botha (c), Stephan Lewies, Gideon Koegelenberg, Hyron Andrews, Jean Droste

Ruan Botha. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Ruan Botha. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

If they stay fit, Ruan Botha and Stephan Lewies have the makings of a top-class pair.

They’re robust but also athletic and can both organise the line-out.

Beneath them is a bit of a lottery.

Gideon Koegelenberg struggled in Italy while Hyron Andrews has struggled to impose himself.

Jean Droste has the look of an enforcer but lacks experience.

VERDICT: If the first-choice pair are broken up, things could get sticky

HOOKERS: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Akker van der Merwe, Kerron van Vuuren, Franco Marais

Akker van der Merwe. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Akker van der Merwe. (Photo by Steve Haag/Gallo Images)

Franco Marais turned a lot of heads when he was selected for South Africa ‘A’ last year and has quietly jumped the queue.

Yet this is the year he’ll need to build on that.

Akker van der Merwe’s explosiveness is well-known but it seems already there might be a Rudy Paige-type saga regarding Chiliboy Ralepelle.

VERDICT: Marais should have this sewn up but he can’t be complacent

PROPS: Beast Mtawarira, Thomas du Toit, Ross Geldenhuys, John-Hubert Meyer, Juan Schoeman, Mzamo Majola, Khuta Mchunu

Beast Mtawarira. (Photo by Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images)

Beast Mtawarira. (Photo by Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images)

This is an area where the Sharks need to be careful not to overplay their depth.

Beast Mtawarira is turning 33, Ross Geldenhuys 35 – their bodies can’t be expected to last any form of overload.

Thomas du Toit is being shifted to tighthead this season and that technical switch could take some time to be successful.

VERDICT: Rather wait and see what happens here…

ALSO READ: 

5 talking points from the Sharks’ Super Rugby squad announcement

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