Dec 18 • General News, South Africa, Super Rugby • 2192 Views • Comments Off on 2015 SEASON PREVIEW: SHARKS

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Photo: Ruby Wolff

There was more than one stage where it looked like the men from Durban were going to create a new ledger in the Republic’s rugby history, with Jake White guiding his troops to an immense start which was backed up by a record breaking overseas tour.

In the end four losses in the team’s final eight matches conspired against the Sharks, and while the Highlanders shock win in Durban was avenged with an elimination final win, the long trip to Christchurch – not for the first time – resulted in the Natal based outfit falling in their mission to reach their fifth decider.

Last year: Four straight wins to start the season, albeit all at home, allowed the Sharks to race ahead, even if critics would have delighted in the fact the Durban based franchise lost their first match away from home, losing 19-23 to the Bulls in round six.

Three more victories were crucial to the cause, with the side recovering from their first loss of the season to thump the Waratahs 32-10.

The Highlanders 34-18 win in Durban, a four tries to nil success, showed how vulnerable the Sharks were to an all-out, full court offensive game.

Hitting the road the South Africans needed results if they were going to make a mark, and boy did they achieve this and more.

Wins against the Rebels, Crusaders and Blues away ensured the Sharks season remained on track, even if they lost two of their last three matches in South Africa during the regular season.

2015 draw/key matches: The first five rounds of the Sharks season will see them play derby matches, the Cheetahs and Lions visit Durban, followed by visits to Pretoria, Cape Town and Bloemfontein.

In round six the Sharks host the Chiefs, followed by the Force and Crusaders. The side then plays the Lions away and then welcomes the Bulls in round ten.

Round eleven will see the Sharks take their first bye, the last of any team in the 2015 campaign.

The Highlanders, Hurricanes, Waratahs and Reds then host the four-time runners up on their long road trip – with the Sharks returning home in round 16 to entertain the Rebels.

The following round the Sharks take their bye, finishing their regular season with the Stormers playing a blockbuster in Durban

Personnel changes: Jacques Botes, Jean Deysel and Keegan Daniel represent a considerable triple treat who will no longer (for now) wear Sharks colours.

The Sharks will welcome over fifteen new players (to be confirmed), while their coaching team has been overhauled – with Gary Gold and Brendan Venter the senior members of the new back room.

Key strengths: As always the sheer directness of the Sharks forwards is an awesome sight, but this isn’t enough to win Super Rugby, as the powerful men from Durban struggled against high octane outfits who base their strategies around cardiovascular 80 minute routines.

Over 16 regular season encounters, the Sharks conceded a competition best 22 tries, so the four-time runners up will look to keep their defensive wall intact while embellishing an attack that ranked equal 13th by five pointers scored.

Must be wary of: While an experienced squad and capable coaching team step in, the Sharks remain the most successful franchise never to have won a title.

As it is with most seasons, the 2015 squad looks powerful enough on paper to cause any side immense issues. With the Waratahs breaking their drought – winning as a giant of Australian domestic rugby – the Sharks will hope to do the same with Gold and co pulling the strings.

Courtesy of SANZAR

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