The way forward is clear. The Sharks MUST move AJ Venter into the second row to attempt to fill the huge void left by the departing Johan Ackermann.
In the first three rounds of the Super 14, Ackies has made a huge contribution to the Sharks’ cause; his mobility and high work-rate belying his age and size. Venter’s achievements, in comparison, appear quite limited. The veteran loose forward seems to be struggling to adapt to the pace of the new game. He is playing a far tighter role anyway and his effectiveness at blind-side flank is diminished by the new laws.
Muir is faced with the prospect of bringing a half-fit Steven Sykes straight into the engine room, or utilising super-sub Albert van den Berg as a starting option. To my mind, neither option makes a whole lot of sense. Sykes has played twice for the Wildebeest now and has failed to shine even in that dismal team. Bringing him in for a crunch game against the Blues wouldn’t be fair right now – in fact, it would be downright foolhardy. Likewise, van den Berg has been one of the match-winners for the Sharks in the first three rounds, providing a huge injecting of pace and athleticism coming on with half-an-hour to go. His work in the lineouts is superb, but he’s not the right man to do a softening-up job in the first half. Moreover, if van den Berg start, who does one bring on? Alistair Hargreaves? Not sure if he’s ready for that.
Looking again at the loose trio, we all saw how effective the Botes-Daniel combination was at Loftus last week. Of course, Botes came off the bench, making it far easier for him to run at the tired Bulls and it would take some big balls at this stage of the game to risk starting the two smaller players in tandem. It would probably make more sense to give Jean Deysel 50 minutes in the number 7 shirt and allow him to build on some very promising signs showed at Loftus. This kid has been there or thereabouts for a while now and is probably due an opportunity to show what he can do. He seem to have a fair bit of pace and a decent set of hands, at any rate.
So, a starting lock combination of Venter and Muller, with Daniel, Deysel and Kankowski as the loose forwards. Assuming a 5-2 split on the bench, we have van den Berg to cover lock, with Botes and one other as the loose forward replacements. In time, that other player will be Epi Taone, but right now, I’m stumped as to who the Sharks should pick in the number 20 shirt.Tweet