The injuries to Alistair Hargreaves and Albert van den Berg in recent weeks have shined a huge spotlight on the one area of real weakness in the current Sharks squad: the second row.
Despite some initial fears, the Sharks have done very well with the four locks at their disposal this year, with Muller the captain and anchor in the number 5 jersey. Hargreaves, van den Berg and Steven Sykes have all taken turns in both the number 4 and number 18 jersey, with the latter really starting to find good form of late. Muller and Sykes are a pretty good combination and are both hard grafters in the tight. Sykes hasn’t shown much prowess in the lineout to date, but with Muller, Ryan Kankowski and (surprisingly) Keegan Daniel coming to the fore as lineout exponents of note, this hasn’t been a problem.
With neither Hargreaves, nor van den Berg available to fill the lock replacement spot, the Sharks are in a bit of a pickle and may well have no option but to pick the 1.94m Nikolai Blignaut as lock cover. Big Nik has never really looked the part at Currie Cup level, though and is in all honesty a little too small to be really at home in the second row.
Other options are a little thin on the ground, particularly considering that Joe Snyman is currently in New Zealand, earning rave reviews with Hawke’s Bay. At 2m and 114kg, Snyman seems just the sort of player the Sharks need yet has bafflingly never managed to crack the senior squad, despite being part of the system for 3 years. Snyman has seemingly been sent to New Zealand to get some much-needed senior rugby experience and will be back in Durban in time for Super 14. If he doesn’t crack the squad, though, he may well be lost to the Sharks, according to what I’ve been told. It’s a real pity he’s not around at the moment, because one feels he may just miss his big chance.
Pampoen van Jaarsveldt and Nolan Clarke are presumably still floating around the KZN Club scene and could presumably be called in to sit on the bench, but my money would be on Mike Rhodes, if indeed a youngster is to be handed a spot in the squad. Rhodes is bigger than either of the guys currently playing lock for the under 21s and since he is a regular loose forward these days, has better pace and hands.
I guess the safe money would be on Blignaut, but if I were making the call, Rhodes is the man I’d entrust with the vacant spot.Tweet