Somewhat predictably, there seems to be a fair bit of soul-searching going on in the Sharks camp right now. The message coming out seems to be a pretty clear one – the Sharks are going to get their game back on track against Griquas. How exactly will they achieve that, though?
One lesson that appears to have been learned – at last – is that protection of the ball at ruck-time is vital. Bismarck du Plessis has been quoted as saying that the Sharks know that their cleaning was sub-standard against the Lions and one can only hope that John Plumtree realises how much damage was done before the game even kicked off, through inappropriate player selection. Keegan Daniel, whatever else he may be, is simply not a blind side flank and even if Jacques Botes is passed fit to play this week (and Jean Deysel is not), the proof of the pudding will surely be whether Plumtree selects Mike Rhodes to start in the number 7 jersey.
First prize, of course, is that both Botes and Deysel make it onto the park, although given what we saw last week, I’d be more than happy to see Rhodes wear the 19 shirt, with Daniel taking the weekend off. Whatever combination takes the field, though, the entire pack is going to need to up their game considerably, or else watch as Griquas snuff out any hope of a four-try win with their legendary breakdown spoiling tactics.
A bit of good news is that Riaan Swanepoel should be fit to start at inside centre. The Sharks have missed Swannie’s unique brand of go-forward at 12 and together with a fit-again Craig Burden on the bench, that’s at least two more players in the squad that know how to get over the advantage line than were available last week. Plumtree has indicated that, with Swannie available, he’ll be able to pick his first-choice backline, which is a pretty damning indictment on the prospects of Adrian Jacobs and Rory Kockott, at least as far as this year’s Currie Cup is concerned.
Expect the Sharks team to look something like this, if you’ll excuse the brackets.
15 Terblanche, 14 Ndungane, 13 Murray, 12 Swanepoel, 11 Pietersen, 10 Hernandez, 9 Pienaar, 8 Kankowski, 7 Deysel/Rhodes, 6 Botes/Daniel, 5 van den Berg, 4 Sykes, 3 J du Plessis, 2 B du Plessis, 1 Mtawarira
16 Burden, 17 Smit, 18 Hargreaves, 19 Rhodes/Downey, 20 McLeod, 21 Dumond, 22 Jacobs