Sharks (rugby union)
|Union||South African Rugby Union|
|Location||Durban, South Africa|
|Ground(s)||Growthpoint Kings Park (Capacity: 55,000)|
|Director of Rugby||Jake White|
|Coach(es)||Brad McLeod-Henderson (forwards)
Sean Everitt (backs)
|Captain(s)||Bismarck du Plessis|
The Sharks are a South African rugby union team competing in the Super Rugby competition (Super 10, 1993–95; Super 12, 1996 – 2005; Super 14, 2006–10; Super Rugby 2011- ). They are based in Durban and centred around the Natal Sharks union, also based in Durban and drawing players from all of KwaZulu-Natal Province.
In 1993–95 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.
Through 2005, they drew players from the two unions based in Eastern Cape Province, the Mighty Elephants (Port Elizabeth) and the Border Bulldogs (East London), but those unions became the core of the new Southern Spears franchise that was formed in 2006 and was originally intended to enter the Super 14 in 2007 but was later denied admission. The current team captain is Bismarck du Plessis. The side contains many other Springbok players, including Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira, Willem Alberts, JP Pietersen, Patrick Lambie and the brothers Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis. They have also featured many international stars including France international Frédéric Michalak. In 2010, they were slated to feature Argentine star Juan Martín Hernández, but he was ruled out for the season with a back injury.
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.
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 Natal Sharks 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.
The Sharks Brand
After being nicknamed the Banana Boys (Afrikaans: Piesangboere) for a long time, it was decided in 1995 that the whole offering would go ahead with new branding - The Sharks. The black-and-white Sharks mascot Sharkie was launched in 1995. A substantial budget was allocated to implement this vision into the match facilities, the pre and post match activities and the team.
The local press at first were very hesitant to accept the new name and branding and fans were polarised by the radical proposed change that flew in the face of rugby tradition and convention. After much controversy in the media (which very rapidly brought the proposed brand to everyone's attention) and a very successful season supported by new products and promotions the Sharks were embraced by all. The Sharks' marketing has been widely acknowledged in marketing and rugby circles as best practice and included as a successful case study in marketing text books.
There was initially significant resistance from many quarters, ascribed to the traditional attitudes of the rugby loving public. But since, crowd attendances, merchandising, suite holder and season ticket sales have all improved, reaping dividends for its stakeholders. The Sharks have averaged attendances above 30,000 in each Super Rugby game since 2010. The Sharks are also well supported across South Africa, with sizeable fan bases in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town. Most of their supporters however live in the KwaZulu-Natal province, particularly in Durban and Pietermaritzburg. Sharks supporters are some of the most loyal rugby fans in the world and often travel with their team en masse to games away from Durban. This ensures that The Sharks always have a portion of crowd support at away games. 
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. As well as The Sharks team, it is also used during the Currie Cup for the Natal Sharks, as well as soccer games. The grounds were originally built in 1891, but have been worked on numerous times. A major upgrade occurred for the 1995 Rugby World Cup.
The Sharks catchment currently covers the province of KwaZulu-Natal. The two main cities from which most of its players are drawn are Durban and Pietermaritzburg. The two Eastern Cape unions, the Eastern Province Kings and Border Bulldogs were originally part of the catchment. With the formation of the Southern and Eastern Cape teams, first the Southern Spears and now the Southern Kings, those two unions have now moved into the new franchise.
Sharks 2014 Super Rugby squad:
(c) Denotes team captain, Bold denotes player is internationally capped.
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, with McLeod-Henderson and Everitt remaining as his full-time coaches.
- Gary Teichmann (1996–99)
- Wayne Fyvie (2000)
- Mark Andrews (2001–02)
- Shaun Sowerby (2003)
- John Smit (2004–11)
- Johann Muller (2008–10)
- Stefan Terblanche (2010–11)
- Keegan Daniel (2011–13)
- Bismarck du Plessis (2014–)
- Most matches in a career: 125 (John Smit)
- Most points in a match: 50 (Gavin Lawless, v Highlanders, 1997)
- Most points in a season: 193 (Patrick Lambie, 2011)
- Most points in a career: 512 (Patrick Lambie)
- Most tries in a match: 4 (Gavin Lawless, v Highlanders, 1997), 4 (Stefan Terblanche, v Chiefs, 1998)
- Most tries in a season: 13 (James Small, 1996)
- Most tries in a career: 29 (Stefan Terblanche)
- Most conversions in a match: 9 (Gavin Lawless, v Highlanders, 1997)
- Most conversions in a season: 28 (Patrick Lambie, 2011)
- Most conversions in a career: 65 (Patrick Lambie)
- Most penalty goals in a match: 7 (Gavin Lawless, v NSW Waratahs, 1997)
- Most penalty goals in a season: 43 (Patrick Lambie, 2013)
- Most penalty goals in a career: 114 (Patrick Lambie)
- Most drop goals in a match: 2 (Frédéric Michalak vs. Stormers, 2012)
- Most drop goals in a season: 3 (Frédéric Michalak, 2012)
- Most drop goals in a career: 4 (Frédéric Michalak)
- "Brief History of Kings Park". Sharks Rugby. Archived from the original on 25 September 2006. Retrieved 2 February 2007.
- "The Sharks Brand". sharksrugby.co.za. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 23 April 2007.
- "Sharks 2014 squad" (Press release). Sharks. 11 February 2014. Retrieved 11 February 2014.
- Howitt, Bob (2005). SANZAR Saga - Ten Years of Super 12 and Tri-Nations Rugby. Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 1-86950-566-2.
- McIlraith, Matt (2005). Ten Years of Super 12. Hodder Moa. ISBN 1-86971-025-8.