So I guess the big question is, will any of the Sharks players involved in Saturday’s rather uninspiring performance in Witbank actually crack the nod for final Super 14 selection? My gut feeling is that squad places will be like hen’s teeth, with only a very few getting in.
The Sharks matchday 22 is pretty much a closed shop at the moment, with only a few early season injuries leaving the door slightly ajar to a select few outsiders. Beast Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis and Deon Carstens will all be there, as will John Smit and Bismarck du Plessis. It’s a rare luxury these days to carry a sixth front-ranker and one could argue that neither a spare prop, nor another hooker, is really necessary. One of Skipper Badenhorst or Craig Burden stands an outside chance of getting into the 22, but I wouldn’t bet on it. Expect the former to stay with the extended training squad, while Burden seems (unfortunately) destined for the Sharks XV this year.
Given Albert van den Berg’s current non-availability, there’s an opening in the squad for reserve lock and the smart money will be on Alistair Hargreaves filling this. Joe Snyman can probably expect to remain in the picture for the time being, but will likely be the man to lose out when Albert returns. Amongst the loose forwards, Skholiwe Ndlovu, Justin Downey and Nikolai Blignaut are all chasing only two spots. Blignaut has the most experience of the three, but has failed to really make his mark at Super 14 level. His ability to double as a lock in a tight spot might just see him edge out one of the other two, though. Ndlovu is the guy I would leave out, simply based on the fact that Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes offer adequate options on the open side, whereas blindside and number 8 look a little thin. Downey’s versatility should see him remain on the fringes of the Super 14 22.
I doubt that either Charl McLeod or Monty Dumond showed enough this weekend to seriously alter the coaches’ thinking; expect Ruan Pienaar and Rory Kockott to be the only scrumhalf options in the match 22, with McLeod only coming onto the bench in case of injury. Frans Steyn will likely be the flyhalf backup, with Len Olivier possibly doing enough to crack a bench spot, depending on squad composition.
Adi Jacobs is a must at centre and since Waylon Murray won’t be available for the first few weeks, his spot on the bench will belong to Riaan Swanepoel for the time being. Andries Strauss will probably stay with the squad until Murray recovers sufficiently, where after he’ll probably also head back to the Vodacom Cup, along with Luzuko Vulindlu. Odwa Ndungane and JP Pietersen will be the wings, with Chris Jordaan and Lwazi Mvovo both likely to remain in (or near) the squad, particularly given the lack of depth at fullback. Olivier, Ndungane and Jordaan are all adeqaute replacements for Stefan Terblanche, if required.Tweet