You’d have to look long and hard – and possibly without success – to find a successful team filled with young and inexperienced players.
This is not to say they don’t have a place, because they do and they bring enormous amounts of energy to a team environment. But when it comes to the crunch, it’s the calm heads and their influence on those around them that often determine success and failure.
Rudyard Kipling’s deeply true poem ‘If’ rings true. To paraphrase: ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs….. you’ll be a Man, my son.’
“In the past, the Cell C Sharks have been spoken about as a team lacking in leadership, so we felt that there was a need to grow the leadership group within the squad,” explains Cell C Sharks head coach Sean Everitt.
“It’s difficult for [captain] Lukhanyo Am to oversee absolutely everything on and of the field, so we felt – as management – that he would need some assistance in that department.
“Because we’re a new squad, and also a youthful squad, we felt that it would be necessary to get leaders around him to support the youngsters and new players in the team. The five leaders (Thomas du Toit, Louis Schreuder, Curwin Bosch, Andre Esterhuizen and Makazole Mapimpi) will help him with his job on the field and each has really important responsibilities if we want to be a player-driven organisation.”
Curwin Bosch will oversee the attack as the general on the field and Everitt has every confidence in his young number 10.
“The team looks to the flyhalf for leadership and Curwin has grown as a leader within the group. He’s outspoken at team meetings and rightly so. We feel that we can develop him further and hopefully one day he could take over the reins from Lukhanyo.”
Not only are these specific players entrusted with specific roles, but generally there are responsibilities on the shoulders of the returning Springboks too.
Although the victorious stars had a long break and only returned to pre-season training on 3rd of January, they showed no ill-effects of coming down from the euphoria of winning the Rugby World Cup to their inclusion in the match against the Stormers, and their outstanding efforts. This adds further to the leadership and experience necessary in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition.
“From an attitude point of view, they showed on Sunday that they want to be where they are: at The Sharks and that they’ll do whatever they can to make the Cell C Sharks succeed,” Everitt explains.
Something else that has a bearing on a team’s success is player management, in particular the workload they will carry over the course of the tournament.
“There is no official rotation system here, we will rest players as they need it,” Everitt explains of his thought process.
“Obviously injuries play a big part and that’s why we’ve announced a squad of 45 because history tells us that we use between 35 and 40 players in a Super Rugby campaign.
“We have a gruelling schedule where we play eight games followed by a bye and then another eight so there will be injuries, that’s the nature of the competition so we are looking to give quite a few people a run going forward.”
Having lost players at the end of the year, it’s now the turn of those representing the Cell C Sharks to show their mettle.
“I don’t think that we are an inexperienced team, although we are young, but we have lots of players with Vodacom Super Rugby experience and we expect them to step up now.”