Some (admittedly rather sketchy) details are emerging regarding the experimental team the Sharks are likely to send to Witbank to face the Pumas this weekend. John Plumtree has confirmed that John Smit will lead the side from tighthead prop.
Smit joins Jannie du Plessis and Ruan Pienaar as the only first-team regulars to make the trip up to coal-mining country. The weaker nature of the opposition has forced Plumtree’s hand somewhat and his goal for this match is to give his fringe players a run out to see what they are capable of doing. For Smit and Pienaar, adjusting to life in new positions, it represents the ideal opportunity to hone some new skills in a low-pressure match situation.
Smit will start at 3 and I guess Jannie du Plessis will be on the bench. Although the latter could well start at loosehead, it would probably make more sense to play Barra Mthethwa in the number 1 jersey and keep the Springbok as cover, in case anything goes wrong in the front row. I’d be pretty keen to see Craig Burden start at hooker, with someone like Dylan Rutherford going along as cover. Joe Snyman and Alistair Hargreaves should be the locks and I have it confirmed that Justin Downey will start at blindside flank. Skollie Ndlovu will likely be his foil on the openside and you can pick the other loose forward from any of Warren Whitely, Jacques Potgieter or Mike Rhodes.
Len Olivier will no doubt start at flyhalf, with Ruan earmarked to take over at half time. Charl McLeod should be the scrumhalf and Riaan Swanepoel is sure to be one of the centres. Andries Strauss is likely to be in the mix somewhere as well and Chris Jordaan, Lwazi Mvovo and Wes Bodmer should make up the back three.
This is a purely speculative 22, then, but it may not be too far off.
1 Barra Mthethwa, 2 Craig Burden, 3 John Smit (capt), 4 Joe Snyman, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 6 Skholiwe Ndlovu, 7 Justin Downey, 8 Mike Rhodes, 9 Charl McLeod, 10 Len Olivier, 11 Wes Bodmer, 12 Andries Strauss, 13 Riaan Swanepoel, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 15 Chris Jordaan.
16 Dylan Rutherford, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Jacques Potgieter, 19 Warren Whiteley, 20 Ruan Pienaar, 21 Luzuko Vulindlu, 22 Dumi Matyeshana