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Season for silverware, says Sharks’ vd Walt

The Cell C Sharks get their Super Rugby campaign underway against the Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Philip van der Walt
Gallo Images

Having grabbed two consecutive wins in their preseason preparations, there is an air of confidence at Kings Park ahead of the first round of Super Rugby.

The Sharks have been gifted close to a full bill of health, bar the absence of Springboks Jean-Luc du Preez and Coenie Oosthuizen. If it’s any consolation, Du Preez’s unavailability this weekend paves the way for veteran Philip van der Walt to return to action.

The 28-year-old was one of a handful of Sharks players to have played in Japan in the offseason, and the burly loose forward said he was feeling fresh ahead of the season.

“I don’t know whether its fortunate or unfortunate but I had a concussion three or four games before the end of the Japanese season so I had to sit out the last few weeks. It was unfortunate because I don’t want to have concussions but it also gave me a decent amount of rest," Van der Walt said on Tuesday.

“I feel refreshed, I feel good and I’m really hungry to play again so in that regard I’m in a good space.”

Healthy competition

Coach Rob du Preez admitted earlier in their preseason that player rotation will be particularly challenging this season. Given the quality of players at his disposal, the Sharks coach will have to do his best to keep his players happy by managing the amount of game time they all get.

This has led to a healthy atmosphere of competition in the squad and Van der Walt admits that it has made every single player, no matter their experience or reputation, work that much harder.

“There are so many players that are putting their hands up to be in the team. It’s not only a case of having Springboks and guys that regularly play, even with the Boks we have there are players really pushing them. These young players are really energetic and they really want to play and that pushes the guys that have been there a while.”

Season for silverware

The Sharks really do have their fair share of Springboks. Given that the likes of Dan du Preez and Lukhanyo Am were capped late last year as well has bolstered that number to a total of 12 Boks.

Even with Coenie Oosthuizen expected to miss much of the Super Rugby season, the Sharks have a wealth of experience to balance out the youthful exuberance in the squad. Van der Walt believes 2018 could be the Sharks year to grab some silverware.

“Just as excited and probably even more because it’s a new opportunity for us to improve. Last year was the second time we’ve reached the quarterfinals but didn’t make it any further. We owe the fans a good season, we all want to play in finals and win and it has been a long time coming now,” the loose forward said.

“For myself as well, it’s always rewarding if you can contribute to a team that goes the full length. I think we have the team this year to achieve that.”

 

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