Most tourist guides give you the lowdown on the place you’re about to visit. But ours is a bit different. We give you a quick tour of the team, not the place.
Cell C Sharks
Things to see:
Squad depth – The Cell C Sharks have a squad so deep that reading to the bottom of the depth chart can put nitrogen bubbles in your blood. Even with their test players away, the squad is dripping with talent.
Proper scrummaging – In the same way that teams in Wales obsess over creative tens, all teams in South Africa have a solid scrum. And the Cell C Sharks are no different. With Thomas du Toit, Bongi Mbonambi and Ox Nche, they have three of the finest scrummaging forwards in the world – they are often the fuse, to the Bok’s bomb squad.
Vincent Tshituka – Recently acquired from the Emirates Lions, Tshituka is one of the most athletic and devastating carriers in the game. Yet to be capped by South Africa, because he doesn’t qualify on residency, he is the complete package. His hard carries into contact are only surpassed by his soft offloads. In a country stacked with game changing backrow forwards, he tops the list of next generation ball carriers.
Phepsi Buthelezi – Buthelezi is a very untypical South African number eight. With more focus on footwork and hitting gaps, rather than contact, he is a joy to watch. He’s more Faletau than Vermeulen.
Eben Etzebeth – Very unlucky not to be nominated for World Rugby Men’s Player of the Year, he is one of the best in the game. How he wasn’t even in World Rugby’s top 15 men’s players of the year is perplexing. Dominant in attack and defense to the point that he’s probably on NATO’s watch list.
Things to avoid:
Werner Kok – Kok is electricity, in human form. There has arguably never been a more enthusiastic player in the history of the game. He carries every ball like it’s his last and chases every kick like a puppy who just had a plaster cast removed from his leg.
Aimless goal line restarts. – In Boeta Chamberlain, the Cell C Sharks have a ten with a massive drop goal. If goal line restarts are short, or too central, Chamberlain will smack it straight back over the posts. He creates a level of goal line restart pressure that few other teams possess.
Kicking deep – Whether it’s Aphelele Fassi, Makazole Mapimpi or Anthony Volmink, you can’t afford to kick deep to the Sharks’ back three – especially without a solid kick chase. The Cell C Sharks have a back three that will attack from anywhere. In many ways, their back three is more dangerous than an actual shark.
What to pack:
Awareness – Awareness that you’re playing for one of the most glamorous squads in the world. Even without their test stars, the Cell C Sharks have a level of quality that few other teams can ever attain. They’re a true triple threat team who offer a run, pass, kick threat at every phase.
Heavy forwards – As with all South African teams, quality scrummaging is a given and a source of valuable penalties. This isn’t a time to experiment with mobile backrow forwards and props. It’s a game for the big lads.
Accurate kicking and kick chase – When you’re dealing with the Cell C Sharks’ back three, loose kicks are not an option. Their back three regularly run from deep and will cut through any defensive laps or lazy line speed. The defensive line needs to be more tightly backed than an old packet of Watsits.