Is Luzuko Vulindlu ready to take the big step up and fill JP Pietersen’s shoes against the Hurricanes this weekend? Or would it rather make more sense for John Plumtree to shuffle some of his other troops around if the Springbok winger is indeed ruled out?
If Pietersen is unable to face the Hurricanes, as a result of the hamstring injury picked up this weekend against the Brumbies, it would be a blow to Plumtree’s continuity, particularly in light of the fact that he has already lost Jean Deysel and Ruan Pienaar; both crucial to his cause. Pietersen has been on fire this season, dotting down six times in seven games and his absence will only exacerbate the “makeshift” nature of a Sharks backline that currently has Frans Steyn at flyhalf and the inexperienced Riaan Swanepoel at outside centre.
Plumtree has a number of options, of course, although all of them are going to further expose one of the worst-kept secrets in the competition: the Sharks really have very little depth in the backline. The ongoing (and frankly perplexing) injury to Waylon Murray means that there really isn’t an experienced guy waiting in the wings (if you’ll pardon the awful pun), meaning that yet another Super Rugby rookie is set to be thrown to the wolves.
Younng Zuks Vulindlu really has looked impressive and hungry the few times he’s come on in recent weeks. He tackles well, has a lovely step and some pace. More importantly, he looks to have a high work rate, which is one of Pietersen’s least appreciated strengths. I have no idea what sort of boot he has on him – slightly more worrying, I don’t know what he’s going to be like when put under serious pressure by the Hurricanes dangerous backs. I’ve heard from an insider that he’s a highly-rated and confident young man… what’s more, he’s pretty bloody big, so let’s hope he stands his ground.
The next-best wingers in the squad are both busy with other things, of course. Either of Stefan Terblanche or Adi Jacobs could fill Pietersen’s shoes with aplomb… but that of course would, in either case, leave a hole elsewhere in the backline needing to be filled. Monty Dumond could potentially come in at fullback, should Terblanche move over, but it’s certainly not the sort of move to fill one with confidence. A far more radical idea might involve moving Jacobs out to wing, letting Swanepoel cover outside centre and bringing Andries Strauss in at number 12. Again, Strauss has never quite looked the part in the Super 14, though… it’s not a combination that I’m dying to see in action.
No, it looks like Zuks is the man for this particular holding job. His place on the bench must surely go to Vodacom Cup top try-scorer, Lwazi Mvovo, who’s in the form of his life for the Sharks XV.Tweet