With the 22nd year of Super Rugby fast approaching, we take a look a look at the Cell C Sharks Super Rugby Prospects in 2017.
Cell C Sharks Super Rugby Prospects
The South African teams, competing in two separate conferences, seem to be relatively evenly matched. The early prediction is that the Lions will be the team to beat and the Kings likely to be the basement dwellers again. In between we are likely to see the a close contest for supremacy between the Bulls, Sharks, Stormers and Cheetahs. As we know, it is a very long tournament and anything could possibly happen.
Outgoing players include prop Dale Chadwick to Narbonne, hooker Kyle Cooper to Newcastle Falcons, flanks Marcell Coetzee and Jacques Potgieter to Ulster and the Bulls respectively and Number 8 Renaldo Bothma to the Bulls. Scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer has been released and center Paul Jordaan moves to La Rochelle. Center partner Heimar Williams has retired and Springbok wing JP Pietersen has already moved to Leicester Tigers. Fullbacks leaving are Willie le Roux to Wasps and Joe Pietersen who is off to Kamaishi Seawaves in Japan.
Incoming players include centers Lukhanyo Am and Jeremy Ward from the Kings, wing Kobus van Wyk from the Stormers and fullback Clément Poitrenaud from Toulouse. There are also a number of players who are being drafted in from the Sharks Currie Cup squad.
Performance in 2016
The Sharks had a fair if not spectacular tournament in 2016. They qualified for the quarter finals after finishing 2nd in the Africa 1 Conference, 3rd of the South African teams and 8th overall.
Former Springbok Robert du Preez has been moving up the ranks of South African coaches very quickly. The 7 Test Springbok first coached KwaZulu-Natal club sides Crusaders (in 2010) and College Rovers (between 2011 and 2013) before returning to his original home town of Potchefstroom to coach both provincial side the Leopards and university side NWU Pukke.
He moved back to Durban to coach the Currie Cup team in 2016 and has since been appointed as Head Coach of the Sharks Super Rugby team, replacing the departing Gary Gold.
The Style of Play
How the Sharks approach the game in 2017 will be the big question they need to answer. In 2016, they often looked directionless and listless. How Du Preez develops the Sharks game plan with the resources he has at his disposal will be the litmus test for both him and his squad as Sharks fans are used to a more expansive game plan than what was on display last season. The likes of Lukhanyo Am, Jeremy Ward and Curwin Bosch have the potential to light up Kings Park given the license to play more adventurously.
The Playing Kit
Courtesy of the Sharks, here are there home (black) and away kits for 2017. They have gone for a very traditional look, true to their roots.
The Sharks were often the flag bearers of South African rugby in Super Rugby. This has not really been the case in the recent past. Maybe this year will be the year that they make the big step forward and get to at least the semi-finals.