|Union||South African Rugby Union|
|Location||Durban, South Africa|
|Jonsson Kings Park Stadium (Capacity: 55,000)|
3rd (South African Conference)
The Sharks (known as the Cell C Sharks for sponsorship reasons) is a South African professional rugby union team based in Durban in KwaZulu Natal completing in the Super Rugby competition (Super 10, 1993-95; Super 12, 1996 - 2005; Super 14, 2006-10; Super Rugby 2011-present ) and centred on the Sharks union, also based in Durban and drawing players from all of KwaZulu-Natal Province, The team plays its home matches at the Kings Park Stadium.
In 1993-1995 South Africa was represented in the Super 10 by their three top unions (top three teams from the previous years Currie Cup). Natal (as they were called then) qualified in 1993 and 1994. Natal were runners-up in 1994 after having lost to Queensland 21-10 in the final. In 1996 and 1997 South Africa was represented in the Super 12 by their four top unions rather than franchises, and Natal qualified and competed both years. They have never won any of the Super Rugby competition, but have reached the final four times, as Natal in 1996 and as the Sharks in 2001, 2007 and 2012.
The side contains many Springbok players, including Thomas du Toit, Andre Esterhuizen, Makazole Mapimpi, Lukhanyo Am and Curwin Bosch. They have also featured many international stars including France international Frédéric Michalak.
Natal competed in the inaugural Super 10 during the 1993 season. They were in Pool A along with Auckland, Western Samoa, Queensland and Otago. They finished second in the pool on 12 points, behind Auckland on 16. The next season they played in Pool b with New South Wales, Western Samoa, Auckland and Waikato, and finished at the top of the pool to face Pool A winners Queensland in the final in Durban. Natal lost the game 21 to 10. Natal did not play in the 1995 series.
The Sharks' Currie Cup team played in the first Super 12 season, in 1996. After 11 games the Sharks finished fourth in the final standings, enough to get them through to the finals. They defeated Queensland at Ballymore 43 to 25 to get into the first Super 12 championship game. They finished inaugural runners-up, losing to Auckland 45 to 21 in Auckland. The following season Natal finished fourth once again, but lost their semi-final against Auckland.
In 1998 the Coastal Sharks (as the team was now styled) won 7 of their 11 games, and finished in their best position yet, third place. They were however defeated by the Crusaders in the semi finals. The following season the Sharks missed the finals, finishing 7th. In 2000 the Sharks finished last in the final standings. However the next season they came second - at the time their best ever finish - and after defeating the Cats, went to Canberra for the final, which they lost against the Brumbies.
In 2002 the Sharks missed the finals after finishing 10th on the season table. The following season they came 11th. 2004 was a better season for the team, coming in at 7th after the regular season. However, in 2005 saw them slump to 12th.
In 2006, the Super 12 expanded and became the Super 14. In the first Super 14 season the Sharks narrowly missed the finals, missing out on a 4th-place finish on points difference. In 2007 they were top of the table and became the first South African side to host a Super 12 or 14 final. The Sharks fought hard in the final but lost to the Bulls after a controversial try by Bryan Habana.
In 2011 the Super Rugby competition was expanded again to feature an additional team from Australia changing the competition to the Super Rugby tournament. The 2012 season saw the Sharks struggle in the first few weeks, but a run of good form saw them lose only one of their last seven games to sneak into the playoffs in 6th position. They had to travel to Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane, Australia for the qualifier against The Reds, whom they beat 30-17 to reach the semi-finals. They then had to travel another 11 000 km back to Cape Town to face the Stormers, they were not given much of a chance after having crossed the Indian for the second time in as many weeks, but again they prevailed 26-19. Having beaten the Crusaders in the other semi-final, the Chiefs claimed home ground advantage for the final. After travelling over the Indian yet again (the third time in three weeks, 55 000 km travelled in total) to Hamilton, the Sharks met the Chiefs for the final, but the fairytale was not to be, and they were defeated 37-6 by the Chiefs, who claimed their first ever Super Rugby title. The Sharks did manage to win the South African Conference and trophy once in 2014 under coach Jake White. The main prize still eludes the Sharks.
While the provincial Natal rugby team was nicknamed the Banana Boys (Afrikaans: Piesangboere) for a long time, the advent of professionalism in 1995, along with the launch of Super Rugby franchises, led to a rebranding, with the team to be known as the Sharks. A black-and-white Sharks mascot, Sharkie, was also launched in 1995.
Kings Park Stadium in Durban is the home ground of The Sharks. It is locally known as "The Shark Tank". It currently has a capacity of 52,000. In addition to being the home of the Sharks, it is also used during the Currie Cup for the Sharks, as well as for soccer games. The ground was originally built in 1968, but have been worked on numerous times. A major upgrade occurred for the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
When the Super Rugby franchise system was launched in South Africa in 1998, the team was called the Coastal Sharks and covered the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape provinces, therefore drawing players from the Sharks, Border Bulldogs and Mighty Elephants Currie Cup teams. This lasted until 2005, when the Eastern Cape attempted to launch their own Super Rugby franchise, the Southern Spears. That meant that the Border Bulldogs and Mighty Elephants teams were aligned with the Spears (and later Southern Kings) franchise and the Sharks were effectively affiliated with one provincial union only, namely KwaZulu-Natal.
|Sharks Super Rugby squad|
|(c) Denotes team captain, Bold denotes internationally capped, DEV denotes a development squad player, ST denotes a short-term signing. |
The Sharks were coached by Former Springbok coach Ian McIntosh between 1996 and 1999, with Hugh Reece-Edwards as his assistant. In 2000, Reece-Edwards took over as coach with Jake White and Allister Coetzee as assistants.
All three were replaced the following year however as Rudolf Straeuli was appointed coach, with Kobus van der Merwe as his assistant. In 2002, Clinton Isaacs replaced Van der Merwe as Straeuli's assistant.
Kevin Putt was appointed as Straeuli's replacement when he was appointed Springbok coach, with Theo van Rensburg as assistant. Dick Muir replaced Putt in 2006 and pulled in John Plumtree as his assistant. Plumtree took over the head coaching position for the 2007 Currie Cup, whilst Muir took time off to add to his qualifications and learn from some of the most successful coaches in rugby history, such as Sir Clive Woodward. Muir took The Sharks to the 2007 Super 14 final at home and was later seconded as an assistant coach to Peter de Villiers with the national side.
John Plumtree took over as full-time coach in 2008 where he found immediate success, taking the Sharks to their first Currie Cup title since 1996 when they defeated the Blue Bulls in Durban. He repeated that feat in 2010 when his team beat Western Province in the Kings Park final. Following their Super Rugby Final's appearance in 2012, the Sharks produced a lacklustre season in 2013, finishing 8th on the combined log and 4th of 5 teams in the South African division. Plumtree's final season as Sharks coach was marred by a roster depleted of injuries and perceived tactical challenges.
Soon after the Sharks' appointment of former Springboks' and Sharks' captain John Smit as team CEO in mid 2013, news reports emerged that White had contacted former Springbok Brendan Venter to assume a short-term coaching role for the Sharks. Following days of media reports speculating on Plumtree's job security, the Sharks announced that Plumtree would not be brought back following the end of the Super Rugby Campaign. Venter was soon appointed as the Director of Rugby for the 2013 Currie Cup campaign, with coaches Brad McLeod-Henderson (forwards) Sean Everitt (backs) assuming the day-to-day coaching responsibilities. Following the end of the Sharks' successful 2013 Currie Cup Campaign, Venter stepped down as Director of Rugby. Former Springboks' coach Jake White, looking to return to coaching in South Africa, was soon hired to succeed Venter as the Sharks' Director of Rugby and Super Rugby coach, with McLeod-Henderson and Everitt remaining as his full-time assistant coaches.
At the end of 2014 Jake White resigned as Super Rugby coach and Director of Rugby, and former Kobelco Steelers coach Gary Gold was hired as Head Coach and Super Rugby coach for the 2015 Super Rugby Season. McLeod-Henderson resigned after a poor Super Rugby Campaign and Gary Gold assumed the reigns as Currie Cup coach for 2015, director of rugby and the Super Rugby coach for 2016.
Towards the end of 2016 Gary Gold left the Sharks and assistant coach Robert du Preez became coach for the 2016 Currie Cup campaign, as well as the Super Rugby coach from 2017. du Preez would lead the Sharks to the quarter finals of Super Rugby for three consecutive years, but did not manage to progress beyond that stage.