The Sharks may have nearly 10 returning Springboks available for selection this week but it is abundantly clear that they won’t all be rushed back into action against the Bulls on Saturday.
Craig Lewis reports for IOL.
Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford confirmed that each individual’s fitness and “state of mind” was being carefully considered ahead of this weekend’s encounter.
“They are all available but there are definitely some who won’t play,” he said. “It is in the best interests of some players to give them a rest and so that’s what we’ll do. The well-being of the players and their state of mind after a long campaign is what we’ll take into account.”
It is for this reason that Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and Adi Jacobs are almost certain to be given a rest on Saturday, having played in every Tri-Nations match this year.
Nevertheless, the affable Mtawarira said he was just dying to “contribute to a Currie Cup success” in due course. “It feels really good to be back here with the guys. I obviously want to get involved and play this weekend but I have a few niggles here and there and I am struggling a bit with a shoulder injury. So we’ll just have to see how it goes.”
Mtawarira has virtually cemented his position in the Bok front-row this season and despite his busy schedule with the national team, he said he had still followed the Sharks’ progress very closely.
“I’ve watched every game the Sharks have played and they’ve done really well. I’m very proud of the guys and I just want to take on the challenge and hopefully help take the team to the semifinals.”
Mtawarira had another colossal game for the Boks over the weekend but said he still wanted to work on several aspects of his game in the future.
“Ja, I’m happy with my form at the moment but there’s still a lot of things I want to improve on. I don’t want to just be satisfied with my performance. I want to keep on getting better and better, but at the moment I’m really just looking forward to every game I play.
Mtawarira didn’t take part in training but there were a number of other returning Boks who were fully involved.
Frans Steyn was running at outside centre alongside Brad Barritt while Ruan Pienaar looks set to start at scrumhalf, inside of flyhalf Fred Michalak.
Waylon Murray and Odwa Ndungane both seem likely to play on the wing while Stefan Terblanche will keep the No15 jersey.
The loose-trio of Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel and Jacques Botes will also stay in tact while Johann Muller seems set to partner Alistair Hargreaves in the second row.
In the front row, Jannie du Plessis, Skipper Badenhorst and Deon Carstens should provide the necessary grunt against the Bulls while Bismarck du Plessis appears likely to play off the bench and his impact during the latter stages of the match could also prove invaluable.
JP Pietersen and Ryan Kankowski are still nursing a hamstring and shoulder injury respectively but could be named on the bench.
With so many options available this week and with a host of variables to consider, Bashford admitted it was a bit of a “balancing act” to ensure they did what’s best for the team and the individual players.
With several weeks of Currie Cup rugby still to be played and considering the team has faired pretty well even without the Boks, there is certainly no need to risk any players who are not fully fit, and it seems the Sharks have realised this.
However, it doesn’t appear as if the Bulls are following the same script. Reports coming out of Pretoria suggest Victor Matfield is set to return to the second row along with Danie Rossouw.
Rossouw limped from the training field on Monday with a heel injury but it appears he will be given every opportunity to recover, as will Bryan Habana who is still suffering from a hamstring injury.
Pierre Spies and Fourie du Preez are also likely to come into their run-on XV, despite having started the last three Tri-Nations matches.Tweet