When you’re facing a side that builds so much of its play around the go forward created by Sione Lauaki, the temptation to add big Willem Alberts to your side must be hard to resist.
The Sharks face up to last year’s finalists, the Chiefs, in their Super 14 opener on Saturday evening and the ongoing legal (and political) machinations around the availability of Alberts will be causing Sharks coach John Plumtree no small amount of headaches. As things stand right now, SARU have asked Koos Basson to investigate the matter of Alberts’ much-talked-about off-season move to Durban. The Lions maintain he’s still contracted to them, although they’re not paying him. The Sharks reckon he’s theirs fair and square, since he has no valid Lions contract. SARU, to date, haven’t indicated which way they are leaning and you would have to be very optimistic indeed to believe that a ruling will be forthcoming in time for Plumtree to include Alberts in the team for this weekend’s game.
Nobody’s really sure, at this stage, what the repercussions could be should Plumtree and the Sharks opt to field Alberts in the Super 14. Picking him for a meaningless warmup was one thing, but there is every possibility that docked log points could be on the table and the Sharks will have a hard-enough making the semis this year without losing points over something like this. The impact on the player himself would huge, as well – imagine how he would look in the eyes of his team mates if his very presence in the side was considered detrimental to the team’s overall progress? Simply not fair to do that to the guy, would be my call.
So it looks like we’ll probably have to make do without “Big Vic” this weekend, which will be fine, because Jean Deysel will look after Lauaki for us. Ryan Kankowski has just been stung by the blow of not receiving a Bok contract as well, so my gut feel is we’ll see a big performance from the talented number 8. Jacques Botes should be fit to take his place too and with the Sharks tight five that did so well last year retained, I expect to see a very strong performance from the forwards.
The backline permutations are still wide open. I understand that Rory Kockott has been struggling with injury, so don’t be too surprised to see Charl McLeod start at 9, with Monty Dumond earmarked to start at flyhalf – and take the kicks at goal.
Possible Sharks team:
15 Terblanche, 14 Ndungane, 13 Jacobs, 12 Swanepoel, 11 Pietersen, 10 Dumond, 9 McLeod, 8 Kankowski, 7 Deysel, 6 Botes, 5 Muller, 4 Sykes, 3 Smit (capt), 2 B du Plessis, 1 Mtawarira
16 Burden, 17 J du Plessis, 18 Mostert, 19 Daniel, 20 Kockott/R Cronjé, 21 Meyer, 22 Murray