With a number of key players carrying injuries, the Sharks as a union need to manage their playing resources very carefully in the coming week, lest the desire to field a strong team against the Bulls in the Super 14 undermines the Sharks XV’s chances of winning their Vodacom Cup semi-final.
We need to be pragmatic here; while there is still a slim, mathematical chance that the Sharks can make it into the Super 14 semi-finals and then even go on to win the trophy, the reality is that we’ll be playing for pride and pride alone in the main game on Saturday. The Sharks XV, however, have a real chance to bring home some silverware this season should they be able to overcome the Blue Bulls and it is vital that every player who is eligible for Sharks XV selection should be available to Sean Everitt this week.
While it’s unfortunate that Craig Burden ended up being a match short of the requirement to qualify for the semi-finals, players like Waylon Murray and Andries Strauss should very much come into the equation, even if it means taking a chance with a raw youngster in the Super 14 squad. The major issues are at centre, loose forward, scrumhalf and wing, where injuries to Riaan Swanepoel, Willem Alberts, Ruan Pienaar and JP Pietersen may well end up forcing a raid on the Sharks XV player pool, thus disrupting their combinations and destroying their chances of winning.
It’s the scrumhalf situation that is most worrying and should Ruan Pienaar be ruled out of the game, I’d say that we should leave Charl McLeod where he is and rather promote Ross Cronje to the Super 14 bench. McLeod has played every game for the XV and is key to their continuity. Andries Strauss is already with the Sharks squad but if it were up to me, he’d be back with the XV this week (as their captain) with Trompie Pretorius promoted to the Super 14 bench. That would leave the XV with a three quarter combination of Speckman, Strauss, Stemmet and Murray (at wing) which has a very solid feel to it indeed.
Should the worst-case scenario come to pass and Alberts and Ryan Kankowski both be rules out, Mike Rhodes will need to stay with the Super 14 side, but that should pose less of a risk, since the Sharks XV have good depth in the loose forwards and have done a fair bit of rotation this season in any event. Skollie Ndlovu, Justin Downey and Luvo Lusaseni are a pretty useful combination and Lambert Groenwalt, Meyer Swanepoel and the likes provide good cover off the wood.Tweet