The way the Sharks have been playing over the last month, several key players must surely have done their prospects of playing against the British Lions a lot of harm. Apart from the latest round of injuries, I can only think of a handful of Sharks players who can feel confident about their chances of inclusion.
Starting at the front, Beat Mtawarira’s game of front-row merry-go-round with Deon Carstens has hardly helped his cause. Last year’s shoe-in selection at loose head prop for the Springboks has lost ground to Gurthrö Steenkamp and the big Bulls man will surely wear the number 1 shirt in the opening test. A lack of continuity at hooker has hampered Bismarck du Plessis’s form too. An utter dog’s breakfast of a performance against the Highlanders will leave many wondering if it’s actually been worthwhile moving John Smit over to tighthead to accommodate the hot-headed hooker.
Smit, at least, looked class at number 3 against the Highlanders and as his value to the team is unquestioned, he will be at least one Shark who is sure to do the Bokke proud this season. Doc Jannie du Plessis will be there too, one way or another, since there just don’t seem to be any other serious tighthead contenders, particularly now that the overrated Brian Mujati has been found out.
Johann Muller fell out of favour with the Bok selectors last year for some reason, but has hopefully done enough this year to get a look in, particularly with Andries Bekker struggling with injury. Jean Deysel may find that his unfortunate injury scuppered his chances, with Duanne Vermeulen making some big strides in an otherwise woeful Stormers team. Ryan Kankowski is another who has done little to advance his own claims to a starting berth in the last few weeks, with Pierre Spies now ahead in the opinion polls by quite some margin.
Rory Kockott’s act of selfish petulance on Saturday might just have driven the final nail into the coffin of his 2009 Bok amibitions, given that Peter de Villiers already has him earmarked as a selfish player and one that is unlikely to add any rhythm to the Bok backline, despite his undoubted goal-kicking prowess. Ruan Pienaar’s timely return from injury will see him retained at flyhalf, with Adi Jacobs also likely to feature, although his own form has dipped along with the team’s of late.
Frans Steyn wouldn’t get near the Bok 22 on current form, so for him, injury might just save him from the ignominy of not being picked. Odwa Ndungane is another who is a few notches off what is required at this stage. JP Pietersen will be there based on his early season heroics and past achievements, as he too looks a game or two shy of match fitness after injury.
The big surprise at this stage is likely to be Old Stef Terblanche, who now that Conrad Jantjes has broken his leg, must surely be the front-runner to wear the number 15 jersey for the Boks.
Pretty slim pickings all-in-all, though. Raise your game, Sharks.Tweet