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Team Preview: Sharks

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allblacks.com     07 Feb 2018     Getty Images

Home: Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban
Last Season: Eighth

Squad:
Akker van der Merwe, Coenie Oosthuizen, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Daniel du Preez, Franco Marais, Gideon Koegelenberg, Hyron Andrews, Jacques Vermeulen, Jean Droste, Jon-Luc de Preez, John-Hubert Meyer, Juan Schoeman, Keegan Daniel, Kerron van Vuuren, Khuta Mchunu, Lubabalo 'Tera' Mtembu, Mzamo Majola, Philip van der Walt, Ross Geldenhuys, Ruan Botha (captain), Stephan Lewies, Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira, Thomas du Toit, Tyler Paul, Wian Vosloo; Andre Esterhuizen, Cameron Wright, Courtney Winnaar, Curwin Bosch, Garth April, Grant Williams, Jeremy Ward, Johan Deysel, Kobus van Wyk, Leolin Zas, Louis Schreuder, Lukhanyo Am, Lwazi Mvovo, Makazole Mapimpi, Marius Louw, Michael Claassens, Rhyno Smith, Robert du Preez, Sbusiso Nkosi, Tristan Blewett.

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Game breaker:
First five-eighths Curwin Bosch has a significant role to play for the Sharks this year. While introduced for the 2016 season after the World Under-20 championship, he had to contend with Pat Lambie for regular game time during the 2017 season. Also capable of playing fullback he has appeared in 16 games for the side and has scored 156 points. Competition is also likely to be a powerful motivator for him as the rising Robert du Preez Junior has been named in the squad.

Key signing:

In the expected absence through injury for the Super Rugby season of prop Coenie Oosthuizen, usual loosehead Thomas du Toit will make the switch to tighthead. It is a heavy load for du Toit but Sharks discussions with Springboks scrum coach Pieter de Villiers suggest he is capable of making the transition. The 22-year-old has played on the tighthead before but in more recent times has specialised on the loosehead. However, the move will assure him of more game time with 98-Test veteran Tendai Mtawarira the force to be reckoned with on the loosehead side.
Returning veteran:
New captain Ruan Botha has been around the South African Super Rugby scene since 2012 when he made his debut for the Lions. He played 21 games for the Stormers in 2014-15. Injury frustrations reduced his chances in 2016 however, he made big strides with the Sharks last year firstly winning a call-up to the South Africa A side and then securing a Springbok place for the northern hemisphere tour. He took on the captaincy of the Sharks for the Currie Cup season and his efforts there have seen him handed the job for the Super Rugby campaign.

The Scoop:
Newcomers to the squad help extend the depth in key positions and there will be New Zealand interest in how former Tasman and Highlanders prop Ross Geldenhuys fares having spent a season with the Kings after his return to his homeland. Joining him as newcomers to the Sharks are hooker Akker van der Merwe, halfback lock Louis Schreuder and Tyler Paul. Coach Robert du Preez goes into the season believing he has the depth required for the campaign while the progress the side made last year should be extended and bolstered by the infusion of an impressive group of young players