Inspired selection coup or yet another disaster in waiting? 80 minutes in Wellington will reveal all as Sharks coach Dick Muir moves out-of-form World Cup Hero Francois Steyn to yet another position in the backline.
Steyn has alternated between the flyhalf and fullback positions in his six outings to date, being unable to displace Bradley Barritt from the number 12 jersey which many feel is the former’s best position. Steyn has looked average at best when at fullback and just plain woeful at pivot as his decision making and “speed-of-thought” appear way below par for this most crucial of positions.
A knee injury to regular outside centre Waylon Murray sees Steyn named in the unfamiliar number 13 jersey for the first time in his career. It’s a move that may well prove a masterstroke; Steyn is big, strong, fast and knows how to beat a man. Running straight is his forte and his defence is spot on. Maybe at 13 his reluctance to pass will be less of a hindrance and his huge-yet-erratic boot may be called into play less often if given good ball by Barritt. Murray himself has been strangely off colour this season, so a new (old) face at 13 may just help get the static Sharks backline moving again.
Ryna Kankowski has recovered from an ankle injury to take his place at number 8, while Steven Sykes comes into the second row, with AJ Venter relegated to the reserves. BJ Botha comes in at tighthead for Jannie du Plessis as the “rotate-a-prop” system continues. The remainder of the team is unchanged, with the exception of Fred Michalak’s elevation to the starting fifteen to occupy the vacant flyhalf slot. Michalak’s place on the bench is taken by fit-again Adrian Jacobs.
The bench has a reasonably regulation look to it, although should Waylon Murray be passed fit to join the reserves, Venter will miss out altogether.
Here is the team:
15 Terblanche, 14 Ndungane, 13 Steyn, 12 Barritt, 11 Pietersen, 10 Michalak, 9 Pienaar, 8 Kankowski, 7 Botes, 6 Daniel, 5 Muller (capt), 4 Sykes, 3 Botha, 2 B du Plessis, 1 Mtawarira
16 Burden, 17 J du Plessis, 18 van den Berg, 19 Taione, 20 Venter/Murray, 21 Kockott, 22 Jacobs