Sharks staring down the barrel

As expected there were few surprises as South Africa’s five Super 14 franchises named their 30 man squads.

As the Cats example in recent seasons has proved, strong on paper does not necessarily equate to success on the field, but out of the five squads Dick Muir’s appears the weakest by some distance.

Hit by injuries in key positions, the Sharks are already walking wounded and the cover named does little to inspire confidence.

With each franchise permitted to freeze five injured players, the absence of names such as Andre Pretorius, Joe van Niekerk and John Smit should not be misinterpreted. They will become available immediately upon regaining full fitness.

The Bully Boys investment in massive centres Dries Scholtz and Rudi Coetzee virtually confirms that their game plan will remain one in which power is paramount. Five of the six named wingers are players of colour, and thus there is no space for the unfortunate Marius Delport. The pack is particularly strong, with depth in all positions. U21 hooker Adriaan Strauss gets the nod over the talented Chilliboy Ralepelle, whose efforts against the Cats last weekend were not sufficient to propel him into the squad.

Frans Ludeke’s Cats squad is as expected, with the loose forwards and outside backs menacing. Jannes Labuschagne shores up the second row, and Lukas van Biljon has perhaps the decisive role to play as first choice hooker.

Rassie Erasmus’ debut Super 14 squad is heavily weighted in favour of the Currie Cup champs, with sprinklings of Griquas talent. The most notable reinforcement has occurred in the midfield, where Kiwi Keith Lowen and youngster Ronnie Cooke add respectability to scant resources. The front row is well stocked with grisled veterans Ollie le Roux and Os du Randt, Springbok stand-out CJ van der Linde and burly up-and-comers Wian du Preez and Jannie du Plessis.

The Sharks squad is notable for its absentees. Butch James’ absence was a possibility, but Muir would have expected veteran Kiwi Tony Brown to be available as back-up. Because of extended club commitments in Japan, however, Brown has yet to join up with his new squad.

Resultantly Percy Montgomery is the only named flyhalf in the Sharks squad. Both Brent Russell and Ruan Pienaar cover No 10, but are named as fullback and scrumhalf respectively. The muted optimism surrounding the Sharks’ bid to avoid relegation continues to wane, with the absence of James and Brown Muir’s most pressing concern. A gruelling campaign requires depth in all positions, and already the Sharks appear stretched.

The Stormers have excluded utility back Gus Theron as Boland flyers Rayno Benjamin and Jonghi Nokwe were both included. Impressive in training, newly-capped Bok Tonderai Chavhanga is by no means secure of a starting berth. Resources are worringly thin at fullback and flyhalf, where Leopards pivot Naas Olivier has been included as cover for Peter Grant. “Potential” rather than “class” would be the descriptive most closely associated with either, however. The front row is, as always, vulnerable and second row adequate at best. Coach Kobus van der Merwe will find consolation in his all-Bok midfield and three exceptional scrumhalves, whilst on paper and depending on fitness, the Stormers will field the strongest loose trio in the country.

SQUADS FOR THE SUPER 14

Bulls

Johan Roets, John Mametsa, Akona Ndungane, Danwell Demas, JP Nel, Rudi Coetzee, Dries Scholtz, Wynand Olivier, Bryan Habana, Trompie Nontshinga, Derick Hougaard, Morne Steyn, Heini Adams, Fourie du Preez, Jacques Cronje, Pedrie Wannenburg, Tim Dlulane, Johan Wasserman, Danie Rossouw, Adriaan Fondse, Victor Matfield, Cliffie Milton, Bakkies Botha, Francois van Schouwenburg, Andries Human, Danie Thiart, Gary Botha, Adriaan Strauss, Jaco Engels, Gurthro Steenkamp

Cats

Conrad Jantjes, Earl Rose, Ashwin Willemse, Wylie Human, Grant Esterhuizen, Jaque Fourie, Wayne Julies, Doppies la Grange, Dewey Swartbooi, Jorrie Muller, Tiaan Snyman, Enrico Januarie, Dave von Hoesslin, Russell Winter, Cobus Grobbelaar, Wikus van Heerden, Ernst Joubert, Roland Barnard, Gerhard Vosloo, Gordon Gilfillan, Willem Stolz, Jannes Labushagne, Trevor Hall, Bertus Smit, Daniel Muller, Lukas van Biljon, James van der Walt, Lawrence Sephaka, Pietman van Niekerk

Cheetahs:

Bevan Fortuin, Gaffie du Toit, Eddie Fredericks, Gavin Passens, Alwyn Hollenbach, Ronnie Cooke, Keith Lowen, Barry Goodes, Vuyani Dlomo, Sinethemba Zweni, Willem de Waal, Meyer Bosman, Michael Claassens, Noel Oelschig, Ryno van der Merwe, Frans Viljoen, Juan Smith, Heinrich Stride, Gareth Krause, Kabamba Floors, Giscard Pieters, Wayne van Heerden, Corniel van Zyl, CJ van der Linde, Jannie du Plessis, Tiaan Liebenberg, Trevor Leota, Ollie le Roux, Os du Randt, Wian du Preez

Sharks

JP Pietersen, Brent Russell, Cedric Mkhize, Grant Rees, Waylon Murray, Adrian Jacobs, Gcobani Bobo, Andries Strauss, Odwa Ndungane, Henno Mentz, Percy Montgomery, Craig Davidson, Sandile Nxumalo, Ruan Pienaar, Jacques Botes, Daniel Farani, Nico Breedt, Warren Britz, Solly Tyibilika, Johann Muller, Albert van den Berg, Johan Ackermann, Steven Sykes, AJ Venter, BJ Botha, Danie Saayman, Skipper Badenhorst, Bismarck du Plessis, Deon Carstens, Brent Moyle

Stormers

Werner Greeff, Tonderai Chavhanga, Rayno Benjamin, Egon Seconds, Marius Joubert, Jean de Villiers, De Wet Barry, Jonghi Nokwe, Peter Grant, Naas Olivier, Neil de Kock, Paul Delport, Bolla Conradie, Adri Badenhorst, Justin Melck, Schalk Burger, Hendrik Gerber, Luke Watson, Henk Eksteen, Andries Bekker, Duimpie Theron, Gerrie Britz, Ross Skeate, Eddie Andrews, Attie Winter, Schalk Brits, Hanyani Shimange, Huia Edmonds, JD Moller