“We’ve Done What We Believe Is Best For Our Team And System” – Neil Powell


When the Cell C Sharks meet Irish side Connacht in Galway in Saturday evening’s Vodacom United Rugby Championship clash, it will be a demonstration of depth and a show of excitement for the players.

Speaking on the eve of the match, Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Neil Powell explained that this wasn’t only about testing the depth of the players and giving opportunities, but part of a wider plan of upskilling. There have been numerous changes to the match 23, but this is all part of a broader planning process.

“It’s important for us to manage our squad well and this is part of our rotational policy,” he explained. “If you look at our travel programme over the next few weeks: Bulls at home, then Connacht away, Bordeaux back home then Harlequins away, I can’t imagine having one team to play all those games home and away.

“We’re in the middle of an 11 game block with five more remaining and to keep the team and coaching staff energised by the time we get to game 10 and 11, we needed to rotate and to manage the squad a bit.

“So we identified this trip to Ireland as a week when we could use this rotational policy. By doing that we also create a bit of squad depth as well as coaching experience. We’ve done what we believe is best for our team and our system.”

In terms of the system which goes beyond the playing staff, Powell admitted that this was a great opportunity for Joey Mongalo to continue his growth as a coach at the Cell C Sharks.

“This is an all-round opportunity to develop and with what’s in mind for the future of The Sharks and where we would like to go, this is a great opportunity for Joey to show what he is capable of.

“He’s a really good coach, a really good person and this is a great opportunity for him to develop. He’s full of energy, he will definitely motivate the guys and get them fired up for this game.

“We’ve sent him with a mission to bring us points back and hopefully they can achieve that goal for us.”

With all the changes, Powell explained that the team list represents a talented group who will do the union proud.

“This is still a strong team, what we want to create at The Sharks is depth, where you can select a starting 15 that’s competitive, that can win games for you, both home and on the road. Squad depth provides healthy competition which in turn pushes the standard at training and then how the guys perform on the field.

“There are a lot of guys who haven’t had the opportunity and we’re really excited to see how they go.”

One of those players is flyhalf Nevaldo Fleurs who was recruited to the Cell C Sharks after stunning Varsity Cup performances and Powell admitted that he believes the 23-year-old can match expectations.

“He’s a player who really puts up his hand at every training session, who shows great potential. He’s a quality youngster who always seems to have time on the ball and he always makes good decisions, so we’re really excited to see him go in that number 10 jersey, especially against quality opposition like Connacht.”

Powell’s focus on Connacht reflects the demands that will be made on the Cell C Sharks, warning that the players will need to deliver a comprehensive and complete performance in this game. Connacht haven’t quite had the season they would have liked, but still represent a credible threat.

“They’re one of those teams you have to battle it out against for the full 80 minutes, they tend to come from behind and beat the opposition in the last quarter of the game.

“We know it’s going to be physical, they’re really direct in their style of play and they just don’t go away. They play to the local conditions, managing the game well and the big challenge for us will be to stay in the game for the full 80 minutes and make sure we don’t tap out before the final whistle.”