Sharks coach Dick Muir is considering the surprise inclusion of Tongan torpedo Epi Taione in the side to face the Waratahs in a Super 14 semifinal in Sydney on Saturday.
Rugby 365 reports that the Sharks reached the play-offs with an emphatic 47-25 victory over the Chiefs in Durban at the weekend, which saw them move from sixth to third on the standings.
Now Muir, who has a penchant for team selection shocks, is considering drafting the Harlequins-bound Tongan utility back into his matchday squad.
Taione, a controversial figure who was banned for six weeks after a reckless headbutt during the Sharks’ dramatic 13-all draw with the Hurricanes on April 5, has already signed a deal to join English Premiership club Quins later this year.
This follows the decision of Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl to tear up his contract last month.
In fact, the powerfully-built, 123kg Taione, who could play either at loose forward or centre, saw only about 25 minutes of Super 14 rugby spread over two games.
He arrived in Durban over a month late – once his commitments to Japanese club Sanyo Wild Knights were completed – and came off the bench in making his Super 14 debut against the Reds in Durban on March 29 – and then got red-carded for that headbutt against the Hurricanes.
He was ruled out for the remainder of the Super 14 league stages – missing matches against the Highlanders, Waratahs, Brumbies, Crusaders, Cheetahs and Chiefs.
Muir is hoping that Taione’s inclusion will give his team a greater physicality at the breakdown in the semifinal, after they were outmuscled during their league encounter with the Waratahs in Sydney last month – a 25-10 win for the ‘Tahs.
While the 29-year-old Taione certainly brings with him a good measure of physicality, his poor disciplinary record could easily make him a target of match officials.
He was released from his Sale Sharks (English Premiership) contract at the end of the 2005/06 season, after receiving an 18-week ban for biting Munster’s Denis Leamy in a Heineken Cup tie.
Taione also made only one Premiership start for Sale, following his move from Newcastle the previous year.
He then joined the Sanyo Wild Knights in Japan, from where he joined the Sharks.
Taione also controversially changed his name to Paddy Power for the duration of the 2007 World Cup in a sponsorship deal agreed with an Irish bookmaker.
* Meanwhile a question mark remains over the fitness of the Sharks’ World Cup-winning utility back Frans Steyn.
Steyn flew out with the team to Sydney on Sunday, but it is not sure if he will recover in time from his rib injury.
Muir named a squad that includes nine backs and 15 forwards.
Veteran Johan Ackermann, who has made two ‘comebacks’ for the Sharks this season, did not travel with the team after appearing in just one match in his latest re-emergence from retirement.
Backs: Rory Kockott, Ruan Pienaar, Brad Barritt, Frans Steyn, Waylon Murray, Adrian Jacobs, JP Pietersen Odwa Ndungane, Stefan Terblanche.
Forwards: Bismarck du Plessis, Craig Burden, Tendai Mtawarira, Deon Carstens, BJ Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Johann Muller, Albert van den Berg, Steven Sykes, Jacques Botes, Keegan Daniel, AJ Venter, Jean Deysel, Ryan Kankowski, Epi Taione.