With the Vodacom Super Rugby championship behind us, it is now time to cast our attention to the upcoming Currie Cup campaign that kicks off this week.
Being a Rugby World Cup year, the competition has been paired down to just one round of matches with the reigning champions, the Cell C Sharks kicking off the action against SuperSport Challenge victors Griquas at JONSSON KINGS PARK on Friday evening.
The Golden Lions, Western Province, Free State Cheetahs, Blue Bulls and Pumas make up the other five sides in the Currie Cup Premier Division which will crown the champion on Saturday 7 September after each team has played six matches and then the semi-finals.
Newly appointed head coach Sean Everitt has a talented squad to work with, but given the short period of time between campaigns, will be looking to maximising the time he has available with his players in order to get off to a solid start.
“We don’t have a long time to get these guys up to speed, but everyone will be familiar with the style of play and I’m confident they can handle themselves well,” he explains.
He has had some time to work with a number of junior players and since last week had the available members of his squad looking to perfect the style of play that suits the campaign, the players and the coaching philosophy.
“We want to play an expansive style of rugby, not 10 man,” he points out. “There was an improvement on attack under (assistant coach) David Williams in Super Rugby and we’d like to continue with that approach.
“With the youngsters we have coming in, they’re going to be required to play that brand of rugby. We’re not going to change anything, but we would like to tweak a few things and certainly improve on performances.”
Although there are a number of younger players coming into the squad, he doesn’t see their transition presenting any great challenge. It’s not like they have been thrown in the deep end, there is history there as well as the importance of the guidance from senior players.
“I have a good relationship with the youngsters and we’ve become quite a tight-knit group over the last few years so I think they will be comfortable. That relationship is built on the trust between us which will make life easier for them.
“What’s also important is for the senior players to build relationships with them too, which will help us and assist the younger guys on the training field and in the games. Having some of the juniors involved in the Super Rugby campaign, whether they played or not, the feedback from them has been positive.”
Griquas are not a team to be taken lightly, despite not considered to be one of the ‘Big Five’, but they have more than proven their mettle over the last few years and nothing excites them more than getting one over the bigger teams in the competition.
“We’ve had some wonderful campaigns in the past where we slipped up against Griquas, but, the difference in those days was that the Currie Cup was a double round. This year it’s a single round which means every game is pretty much a knock-out. If you do slip-up along the way, there could be major consequences.”
But assessing his squad, the Cell C Sharks coach believes he has the talent available to produce an exciting, successful campaign.
“The make-up of the team is slightly different from both Super Rugby and the SuperSport Challenge, we will have a younger team. But what’s exciting is that we’ve managed to keep the tight five together to a large extent. We have lost one or two to the Springboks but the guys who will feature in Currie Cup have Super Rugby experience.
“As long as you have a tight five and young loose forwards, that’s exciting for the youngsters, they won’t be playing under the pump. We want to have a game where the backs get good ball, so we can play a total style of rugby.”