The good news from the regular Tuesday press conference at ABSA stadium is that both Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis are now looking odds-on to start this weekend’s semi-final.
Other potential returnees include Jacques Botes and Johann Muller, while Deon Carstens may even be fit too, after battling niggles pretty much all season. Carstens was an absolute stalwart for the Sharks earlier in the season, when so many other props were unavailable and the damage his body took over those rounds seems to be lingering somewhat.
I see the Cheetahs are talking up their chances in the scrums, based on the fact that they supposedly dominated this facet of play on both prior occasions that the two teams met this Currie Cup. They need to go back and watch the videos, methinks, since they lost both games and on neither occasion did they have to face up to a Sharks tight five that was anywhere near full strength. A lot will depend on whether Muller manages to get back onto the park, but if all of Smit, Mtawarira and both du Plessis brothers are passed fit, I don’t see the Cheetahs getting too much ascendency at scrumtime. They don’t even have a replacement hooker these days…
Plumtree will have a tough call to make amongst the loose forwards, particularly if Botes comes through this week, which I’ve been lead to believe he will. Jean Deysel will be back in his favourite number 7 jersey and I feel that Mike Rhodes has done in enough in his previous two outings that dropping him from the squad would just simply not be right. The Sharks are going to need to hit the Cheetahs with a total forward onslaught and I just don’t see that going to plan if we have both Botes and Keegan Daniel in the squad. My call would be to pick Rhodes in 19, with the in-form Alistair Hargreaves sitting next to him. It’s a tough decision, but I just don’t feel that Albert van den Berg and Daniel are the right guys to have in reserve this week.
The team will be named on Thursday, but if I were to select the lineup, here’s how it would look:
15 Terblanche (c), 14 Ndungane, 13 Jacobs, 12 Swanepoel, 11 Pietersen, 10 Hernandez, 9 Pienaar, 8 Kankowski, 7 Deysel, 6 Botes, 5 Muller, 4 Sykes, 3 J du Plessis, 2 B du Plessis, 1 Mtawarira
16 Burden, 17 Smit, 18 Hargreaves, 19 Rhodes, 20 McLeod, 21 Dumond, 22 Murray