The Sharks spending spree continues but until they get a world class No 10, they will be more pretender than contender when it comes to winning titles, writes Mark Keohane.
Make no mistake, Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee, is starting to put together a powerful first-choice unit with Vincent Tshituka the latest signing. The Lions loose-forward has been on fire in the United Rugby Championship, but loose-forward isn’t necessarily where the Sharks have been found wanting in the URC and in the Currie Cup.
Equally, they haven’t been weak in the midfield. I’d say they’ve been competent without Springbok Lukhanyo Am and imposing when Am is there. The signing of Rohan Janse van Rensburg from Sale Sharks is an interesting one. Janse van Rensburg’s best days seem to be past tense speech more than future tense.
Bringing back former Sharks midfielder Andre Esterhuizen would have been a coup. I do believe Esterhuizen was a target for Coetzee but the bustling South African No 12, so strong for Harlequins in the past two seasons, has extended his stay in the London.
The Sharks, in the Currie Cup, have been disappointing, which emphasises that the depth isn’t quite there yet to run two squads in two parallel tournaments, as will happen with the URC and the respective European knockout competitions.
The Bulls, of the four South African franchises, have best gone about maximising a one-squad system, in which two teams have played in the URC and Currie Cup, but often there has been a very big URC match-day component in the Currie Cup. It has ensured the Bulls being a top two Currie Cup team, whilst they have also made the URC play-offs.
The Sharks, empowered through the private equity investment of American-based (South African) Marco Masotti, earlier this year signed Springboks lock Eben Etzebeth from Toulon. Etzebeth, a former Stormer and 2019 World Cup winner, joins fellow former Stormers and World Cup winners Bongi Mbonambi and Siya Kolisi in Durban.
The pack is definitely starting to take shape, but teams who succeed in the URC and Europe’s strongest competitions, always have world-class pedigree at No 10, and whichever way you want to try and spin it, Curwin Bosch is not a world-class No 10.
Bosch was an exceptional schoolboy talent and he is a prodigious kicker of a rugby ball. He is capable, at best, but he is the weak link in the Sharks armour, and right now the No 10 position is the Achilles in this Sharks make-up.