The Sharks take on the Valke in a compulsory friendly match in Nigel on Friday night. Whilst a large number of first-team regulars are not available through a combination of Springbok duty and injury, Hugh Reece-Edwards and his team look set to name the strongest lineup available, with a view to establishing some continuity heading into the Currie Cup proper.
While the Sharks have given up a smaller number than usual to the Bok group – thanks in no small part to a woeful Super 14 – injuries and player departures have taken their toll on the squad, leading to a pretty fresh-looking lineup likely to face the Valke. Beast Mtawarira will be at loosehead prop and Jacques Botes at openside, but the rest of the pack is expected to show changes. Alistair Hargreaves, recently released from the Springbok squad, should start in the second row alongside young Anton Bresler, with Steven Sykes sitting the match out as a precaution. Wiehahn Herbst and Craig Burden will be at tighthead prop and hooker respectively, while Justin Downey and Keegan Daniel are expected to make up the loose trio with Botes.
The backline is expected to have a somewhat more familiar look to it, although the absence of Ruan Pienaar means that Rory Kockott will start at scrumhalf, with either Monty Dumond or Steve Meyer calling the shots at flyhalf. Yet another (minor) injury to Riaan Swanepoel is likely to see Andries Strauss start at 12, while Vodacom Cup outside centre Jean Stemmet should get his first run in the number 13 jersey. There should be a whole new back three as well… Lwazi Mvovo went over on his ankle at practice and is being kept out as a precaution, while Pat Lambie is still in Argentina. Loius Ludik should probably run out at fullback, with the wing jerseys being occupied by two of Stefan Terblanche, Chris Jordaan and Mark Richards.
Possible Sharks lineup:
15 Ludik, 14 Terblanche/Richards, 13 Stemmet, 12 Strauss, 11 Jordaan, 10 Dumond/Meyer, 9 Kockott, 8 Daniel, 7 Downey, 6 Botes, 5 Hargreaves, 4 Bresler, 3 Herbst, 2 Burden, 1 Mtawarira