Piecing together some bits of news, I’m starting to get a slightly clearer picture of what this weekend’s Sharks team is likely to look like.
Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira will definitely not play. The former has been given the week off and the latter is battling with a groin injury. Pat Cilliers will start at tighthead, with Skipper Badenhorst and Deon Carstens making up the balance of the front row. Jannie du Plessis will cover both sides from the bench, while Craig Burden will earn a recall to the match 22 (and hope to usurp Badenhorst’s position as the de facto number 16 until John Smit returns).
In the second row, Muller and Sykes will again start, with Albert van den Berg providing cover. Al Hargreaves has told me that he won’t be ready to play until next week at the absolute earliest, while Nikolai Blignaut hasn’t really shown enough to warrant a spot at this stage.
Ryan Kankowski will definitely start at 8, with stalwart Jacques Botes at 6. Jean Deysel will probably be at blindside, although I’m awaiting confirmation on his fitness. Should he fail to recover, expect Keegan Daniel to be shoehorned in, although I have a feeling the time may be right for the exciting young Justin Downey to make his long awaited Sharks debut somewhere along the line. Don’t be too surprised to see Daniel and Downey both named in a 5-2 split on the bench.
It appears as though Ruan Pienaar has been earmarked to wear ten should Fred Michalak not pass a fitness test. I wonder how Pienaar feels about this move, having started to show some nice form at scrummie again. Should the Frenchman fall out, Rory Kockott would, of course, come in at scrumhalf with Charl McLeod moving onto the bench. So Frans Steyn at flyhalf is not on the cards this week, contrary to what I assumed in my post yesterday.
Steyn looks to be cementing his spot in midfield and really played his best all-round game in a long time last weekend. Should Adi Jacobs recover from a foot injury, he will start at outside centre with Steyn at 12. Should Jacobs not be able to play, expect Brad Barritt at 12 and Steyn outside him. Barritt himself may not make it, leading to further confusion in the ranks. Riaan Swanepoel has clearly displaced Andries Strauss as the next man in line and he could play either 12 or 13, depending on which of Barritt, Jacobs, or both, fails to be passed fit.
Waylon Murray seems set to continue on the wing, particularly in light of Odwa Ndungane’s injury. According to the Sharks coaching staff, the dreadlocked winger didn’t hurt himself nearly as badly as one would think he did and may even be able to play this weekend. The smart money, though, would be on a wing combination of Murray and JP Pietersen.
Stefan Terblanche will also definitely not play and I would expect his position at fullback to go to Chris Jordaan this week. Anyone know the theme to “A Star is Born”?
So – here’s my latest attempt at a possible team:
1 Carstens, 2 Badenhorst, 3 Cilliers, 4 Sykes, 5 Muller, 6 Botes, 7 Deysel, 8 Kankowski
9 Pienaar/Kokcott, 10 Michalak/Pienaar, 11 Murray, 12 Steyn/Barritt/Swanepoel, 13 Jacobs/Steyn/Swanepoel, 14 Pietersen, 15 Jordaan
16 Burden, 17 du Plessis, 18 van den Berg, 19 Downey, 20 Daniel, 21 Kockott/Macleod, 22 Barritt/Swanepoel/Dumond