Sharks coach Everitt faces a baptism of fire in his first few weeks

Sharks coach Everitt faces a baptism of fire in his first few weeks

DURBAN – It might sound severe to describe the Sharks’ Super Rugby opener on Friday against the Bulls in Durban as a “must win” but it pretty much is given that they fly to New Zealand the next day for the toughest of tours.

Next Saturday, the Sharks play the Highlanders in Dunedin, the farthest of Super Rugby’s destinations; they then move up to Wellington to play the Hurricanes and then they have a fortnight in Australia, playing the Rebels in Melbourne and the Reds in Brisbane.

That is a very difficult start to the tournament for a team rebuilding under a new coach and captain, and it would be a priceless boost if they were to embark on tour with a good win under the belt. Conversely, a loss at home on the eve of departure would impact on morale.

The draw has indeed been unkind to a Sharks team that play eight matches in a row before a bye, with four of them overseas, while their first post-tour game is at home to the Jaguares, last year’s beaten finalists.

It adds up to a baptism of fire for coach Sean Everitt and it will be a test of the team culture that the Sharks have been focussing on since Everitt took over as coach for the Currie Cup last year.

In a nutshell, it is about putting the team first always, and selflessly looking out for your teammates. The Sharks’ Team of the 1990s was big on it under Gary Teichmann and Ian McIntosh.

“The culture is a work-on, you don’t get the final product immediately,” Everitt said. “We came a long way with it in the Currie Cup and the attitude in pre-season training has been amazing... the effort, and work rate in difficult conditions has been very pleasing.

“When you are a new team you will make mistakes, but it is how you react to mistakes that is crucial. The guys are encouraging each other rather than coming down on each other. We don’t have seniority in the team.

Everybody earns their place on merit, there is no senior versus junior thing. We are all on the same level and all contributing to the same goal.”

Mike Greenaway

The Mercury