The Sharks team named to take on the Valke in Nigel on friday night is an interesting one all right, as it differs a fair bit from the one we were expecting. A number of fringe players, most notably Justin Downey and Jean Stemmet, will have reason to feel somewhat aggrieved at the selections made.
The tight five was somewhat predictable and essentially picks itself, given the injury situation. Kyle Cooper has been named on the bench as backup hooker and the youngster will need to prove his aptitude for the game at this level, along with Sharks XV team-mate Anton Bresler. Wiehahn Herbst has been there before and shouldn’t be out of his depth, while the credentials of Beast Mtawarira and Al Hargreaves cannot be questioned. The replacement bench is interesting, though, with no lock forward replacement named. Instead, Pat Cilliers will be joined by another prop, former Griquas tight head Eugene van Staden, who is on trial with the Sharks after spending the last three seasons with Montpellier in France.
It’s among the loose forwards where the first surprise comes. Downey had been training in the number 7 shirt pretty much since the Super 14 ended, while Mike Rhodes has been on and off the injured list yet again. True to form, though, it’s the half-fit Rhodes who has been named to start the match, with the ever-reliable Downey again relegated to the bench. Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes will renew a partnership that has, quite frankly, failed every time it has been tried. It will work against the Valke, of course, because they’re basically a club side these days, but the Sharks coaches may need to look to something different against Griquas in two weeks time, should neither Jean Deysel nor Willem Alberts recover in time.
Steve Meyer has been named to start at flyhalf – a pleasant surprise given his need of game time – and with Riaan Swanepoel yet again injured, is it really surprising to anyone that Dries Strauss is back at inside centre? It’s in the number 13 jersey, though, that the next shocker comes, with Jean Stemmet completely overlooked in favour of 19-year-old Piet Lindeque. That’s not to say that Lindeque isn’t a great potential talent and very exciting, but as the next-in-line player who has paid his dues in the Vodacom Cup and trained in that position for the last few weeks, surely Stemmet should at least be given a chance to show what he can do?
Mark Richards will need to make the most of his chance at right wing, while Louis Ludik and Stefan Terblanche will add a huge amount of experience to an otherwise young outside back division. The former, in particular, will want to show that he is finally over his knee injury and ready to stake a claim for a regular starting berth in the Currie Cup team.
The last surprise is the inclusion of 19-year-old Dwayne Jenner on the bench, yet another inside centre who tips the scales somewhere around the 100kg mark. Jenner came up the hard way, attending EG Jansen in Benoni and almost going to Craven Week withe the Valke, before having to withdraw due to injury. Jenner moved onto the Zululand Rugby Academy in Empangeni and forced his way into the Sharks Under 19 setup through good performances for the Rhinos on the club scene. He was selected to the SA Under 20 training group last year, but missed out on final selection to represent the Baby Boks.Tweet