Thought I’d do a bit of homework, so I went and dug up the team the Sharks fielded in the 2007 Currie Cup semi, where we famously lost 12-19 to the Lions.
That Sharks 22 included 5 Springboks, in Johan Ackermann, AJ Venter, Adrian Jacobs, Gcobani Bobo and Stefan Terblanche, although Ackers was the only one of those five to have played any test rugby that year. Adrian Jacobs was named as the starting flyhalf and Gcobani Bobo was at left wing, just to give some perspective on the makeshift nature of the side that played that day.
The side included Beast Mtawarira and Ryan Kankowski in the pack, as well as Odwa Ndungane at right wing, although at the time the game was played, none of these three had yet represented the Boks. Namibians Skipper Badenhorst (who started at hooker) and Kees Lensing (on the bench) added a little more international flavour to the side. Of the 22 that faced the Lions that day, only 11 remain a year later. The starting lineup named today features 8 changes and a positional shift to the one of a year ago.
Gone from the squad (and also from the Sharks) are three of the four props in that 22, Robbie Harris (Nottingham), Kees Lensing (Castres) and Ronnie Uys (Free State). Ackies has retired, while AJ Venter has moved to WP. Among the backs, reserve halfback Scott Matthie has gone to Leeds Carnegie, while Gcobani Bobo is also in Cape Town. Nikolai Blignaut, Skipper Badenhorst, Craig Burden and Monty Dumond are all still part of the Sharks setup, but none of the four is currently in the first-choice 22 (with the possible exception of Blignaut, should Albert van den Berg not be passed fit).
Mtawarira, Steven Sykes, Jacques Botes and Kankowski start in the same positions as last year, while Bismarck du Plessis and Johann Muller were not available due to World Cup commitments in 2007. Jannie du Plessis and Jean Deysel are both new recruits to the side. Keegan Daniel is on the bench, as he was last year, while John Smit, Deon Carstens and Albert van den Berg were all either at the World Cup or injured for the showdown last October.
Into the back division come Ruan Pienaar, Fred Michalak, Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen, all of whom played in the World Cup last year. Jacobs moves from flyhalf to outside centre, while Brad Barritt, Rory Kockott and Waylon Murray all move to the bench in this year’s team. All three started in 2007.
Once the Lions name their team, we’ll see how much their side has changed over the last 12 months, but there’s no doubt that the Sharks squad of 2008 is at least twice as strong as the one that lost last year. Beware, Lions!
2007 Sharks 22 vs Lions, 13 October
15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Bradley Barritt, 11 Gcobani Bobo, 10 Adrian Jacobs, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter (capt), 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johan Ackermann, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Robbie Harris, 2 Skipper Badenhorst, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
16 Craig Burden, 17 Ronnie Uys, 18 Kees Lensing, 19 Nikolai Blignaut, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Scott Mathie, 22 Monty Dumond