While the Bulls and the Lions went on player buying sprees during lockdown, the Sharks chose to consolidate their successful squad and limited themselves to two smart buys in Sevens star Werner Kok and Bulls flyhalf/fullback Manie Libbok.
Kok, the World Sevens Player of the Year in 2015 and an Olympic Games bronze medallist (2016), joined the Sharks last week after 183 appearances for the Blitzboks.
The 27-year-old will be utilised as an outside centre or wing.
Kok has experience in the Fifteens game, having made 15 appearances for Western Province (2016-18) and last year he played five times for Stade Toulousain.
“In a sense, Werner replaces André Esterhuizen (he has joined London Harlequins) even though they are not the same position,” coach Sean Everitt explained.
“André was a 12 and but we have good centres that can compete for that spot in Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw and Murray Koster.”
The 20-year-old Koster was a star of the Sharks Under-19 team that won the national title in 2018
“Werner brings versatility in that he can also play wing, and we are going to need depth in that position as Kobus van Wyk has gone to the Hurricanes, and Lwazi Mvovo and JP Pietersen retire at the end of this year.
“Also, we have Springbok wings in Makazole Mapimpi and Sbu Nkosi, so we will need back-up when they are on national duty.”
The 22-year-old Libbok was a surprise departure from the Bulls given his promising pedigree.
The SA Schools flyhalf in 2015, he played SA Under-20 in 2016 and 2017. He has since played 16 games for the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup and 17 Super Rugby games for the Bulls but this year found himself behind veteran Morné Steyn.
Everitt said the Sharks are grateful to have his services as he adds depth at flyhalf along with Curwin Bosch and Henry Chamberlain,and adds precious back-up at fullback where the Sharks are a little thin after Aphelele Fassi.
The Sharks lost a hard-working flank/lock in Tyler Paul, who took advantage of the lockdown window of opportunity provided by SA Rugby to take up an offer in Japan.
Everitt said he was not short of options in replacing the 25-year-old Paul.
“In terms of flank, we have quality in Henco Venter (the former Cheetah), Celimpelo Gumede, (another former Sharks age group star that is now coming through at senior level), and (SA Under-20 captain) Phepsi Buthelezi,” Everitt said.
Gumede, a product of Durban High School, played SA Schools back to back (2017/18) and last year played for the Junior Boks.
At lock, Leroux Roets has returned to the Pumas after having been loaned to the Sharks but this is offset by the return to fitness of JJ van der Mescht – the 21-year-old missed Super Rugby earlier this year because of injury.
The former Glenwood pupil played SA Schools in 2017 and for the Junior Boks last year.