Well guys, after the disappointment of the Super 14, it’s time to start looking ahead to the Sharks match against the Lions. This is the kind of game that really comes around only once in a career for most players, so competition for places will be tough.
Of course, it’s unavoidable that the Sharks will field a weakened side, due to the unavailability of those players selected in Peter de Villiers’ Springbok squad. According to a statement from the Bok supremo yesterday, though, only the “chosen ones” in his final squad of 24 will be held back – everybody else will be released to play for their provinces against the Lions.
This is good news for the Sharks, since we might be in a bit of a pickle otherwise. Given that Beast Mtawarira, John Smit, Bismarck du Plessis, Ruan Pienaar, Adi Jacobs and JP Pietersen are aboslute certainties for the final Bok squad – with Ryan Kankowski also an odds-on favourite – we’ll certainly need to scratch around for a few quality replacements. To my way of thinking, Johann Muller, Steven Sykes, Jean Deysel and Odwa Ndungane, all of whom are currently with the Bok squad, will more than likely return for the Lions game.
Given that we’ve lost all our hookers and most of our props to the Boks – and that Deon Carstens is apaprently injured, our depth in the front row will be tested. Skipper Badenhorst and Craig Burden should both come into the match 22 for this one, with Pat Cilliers and Wiehahn Herbst (or maybe even Sabs Nhlapo) coming in at prop. The unfortunate Barra Mthethwa has been sidelined with an horrific ankle injury similar to the one that has curtailed Ali Hargreaves’s season. Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel will, of course, be around, together with Deysel, but there will be a great opportunity to give one of the younger eighthmen in the squad a run against the Lions. I understand that young Adriaan Theisinger, a highly-rated loose forward who captained Grey Kollege last year and joined the Sharks Academy in 2009, is part of the wider squad for both this match and the Currie Cup. I’d be very interested to see him get a run in this game – perhaps as a bolter in the starting lineup? Other options include Justin Downey, Mike Rhodes and Warren Whiteley.
Rory Kockott will take his place at scrumhalf, while the flyhalf berth will probably go to Monty Dumond (with Len Olivier as a possible alternative or bnackup). Riaan Swanepoel and Andries Strauss should be the centres, although it would be a good opportunity to try Luzuko Vulindlu in his favourite position of outside centre. If Vulindlu is not used at centre, he’ll probably be at wing, where the number 11 jersey will be up for grabs in Pietersen’s absence. Expect either of Lwazi Mvovo or Chris Jordaan to be in the picture, with the evergreen Stefan Terblanche in the number 15 jersey.
Possible Sharks 22:
1 Pat Cilliers, 2 Skipper Badenhorst, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 4 Steven Sykes, 5 Johann Muller (capt), 6 Jacques Botes, 7 Jean Deysel, 8 Adriaan Theisinger, 9 Rory Kockott, 10 Monty Dumond, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 13 Luzuko Vulindlu, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 15 Stefan Terblanche
16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Justin Downey, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Len Olivier, 22 Chris Jordaan