The senior players are really helping the juniors come along
The Sharks are aiming to give their young talents the best chance of succeeding by surrounding them with older and wiser players.
In recent seasons the Currie Cup has provided an important platform for young players to gain valuable experience, but it is also important that promising rookies be guided by veterans that have seen it all before.
Sharks assistant coach Sean Everitt believes that they have got the mix of youth and experience in their Currie Cup squad just right, with a host of players in the twilight of their careers helping to nurture the next generation.
"I think that the mixture that we have between experience and youth is a good one. The senior players are really helping the juniors come along, they obviously share their experiences with the youngsters," he told this website.
A good example of this is the influence that World Cup-winning Springbok flyhalf Butch James is having on the development of 20-year-old pivot Fred Zeilinga who made an assured debut against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week.
"Butch James is helping Fred [Zeilinga] along both on and off the field, so Fred has learned a lot from Butch who has got a huge amount to offer the team and Fred is certainly growing under his guidance," explained Everitt.
Outside Zeilinga inside centre Heimar Williams has also made a convincing start to his Currie Cup career, and Everitt said that the influence of players such as Louis Ludik and Odwa Ndungane should not be underestimated.
"Heimar Williams has come in at centre and done a very good job for us and he has also been learning by being able to play with the likes of Butch next to him and more experienced guys like Odwa [Ndungane] and Louis Ludik on the outside," he said.
Some may have questioned the logic of signing 34-year-old lock Marco Wentzel at the start of the season, but apart from his considerable line-out expertise, he also has an important role to play in showing their young locks the ropes.
"Obviously the younger locks like Edwin Hewwitt, Peet Marais and Pieter-Steph du Toit also benefit because Marco [Wentzel] is there so that certainly helps us," Everitt added.
The same can be said of their loose forwards with the likes of Terra Mthembu and Brynard Stander standing to benefit from the input of older heads such as Jacques Botes and Jean Deysel, whilst at the back exciting young flyers like Sizwe Maseko and Jaco van Tonder have plenty to gain by working closely with Boks like Ndungane and Lwazi Mvovo.
The Currie Cup can be a tricky balancing act as the need for dependable performers is just as great as the development of future stars, and the Sharks are confidnt that they can increase their depth while still giving themselves a shot at lifting the trophy at the end of the season.
By Michael de Vries