Bongi backs Sharks rookies for ‘big games’

Bongi backs Sharks rookies for ‘big games’


Veteran hooker Bongi Mbonambi said the emergence of youngsters like Ethan Hooker and Corne Rahl has helped reignite the Sharks while boosting their trophy prospects.

Having languished at the foot of the Vodacom URC standings by round 11, the Durbanites are on a three-match winning streak in all competitions that includes a gritty result against Edinburgh – and the teams will renew hostilities in a blockbuster Challenge Cup quarter-final clash at Kings Park on Saturday.

Hooker, who can play inside and outside centre, has been a revelation in midfield for John Plumtree’s charges, with fellow former Junior Springbok Rahl stepping up in the absence of Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth this season.

Speaking in a Sharks conference on Tuesday, Mbonambi acknowledged their challenges in 2023-24 while praising the roles of the 21-year-old rookies as the coastal outfit aims to secure safe passage back to the Champions Cup.

“It was a tough start for us and everyone at the Sharks rugby union knows that, and definitely not the start that we were looking for [but we had] a lot of young players coming in and getting opportunities to play,” the two-time Bok world champion told reporters.

“It’s the role of every union to get their players into the senior setup as soon as possible, to get them playing URC games, to get them playing knockout games.

ALSO: Sharks eager for second bite at Edinburgh

“The more depth you have in these competitions the better you’ll do, especially looking at the Champions Cup. We’re all aiming for that but to get there you need a lot of depth.

“The way the Sharks are going about it, making sure they play those junior players and expose them… you only get better once you play those big games.

“I’m very happy to see young guys like Ethan Hooker and Corne Rahl putting up their hands because at the end of the day, some of us aren’t going to play rugby for very long.”

The Sharks put seven tries past Zebre Parma in a convincing victory last week to progress to the last eight of the Challenge Cup for the first time.

Mbonambi, though, has cautioned against underestimating a star-studded Edinburgh side on Saturday, especially under the stewardship of former Sharks boss Sean Everitt.

“The fact that it’s a quarter-final and a whole different competition makes it even more difficult. We know they’ll come here even better prepped than before,” he said.

“We noticed last time that they were missing a couple of their key players, and had just come back from playing Six Nations. They’ll definitely be fresh and more challenging this time around.

“Especially with a coach like Sean Everitt, he knows how to prepare a team and bring them down here to Durban. They’re definitely going to come back stronger.”

Photo: Steve Haag Sports/Gallo Images


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