The Sharks coaches have hinted that changes should be kept to a minimum this week for Friday night’s game against the Pumas at ABSA Stadium. One player who is sure to be included in the match 22, after returning from injury, is big loose forward Willem Alberts.
The 120kg monster was one of the Sharks stand-out performers in an ill-fated and underwhelming Super 14 campaign. His partnership with Jean Deysel was a thing of beauty to behold and while the Sharks have done an admirable holding job in the loose forwards in the absence of both players, Alberts’ return, followed (we hope) by Deysel’s the following week, should go a long way towards restoring the brutish edge to the pack.
Alberts will probably play off the bench this week, with another regular starter, Bok winger Odwa Ndungane, also poised to return to the squad. In his case, though, slotting him into the side is far from straightforward, with Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen and Louis Ludk combining superbly in the back three against the Blue Bulls. John Plumtree has already confirmed that he intends to retain the key axis of Charl McLeod, Steve Meyer and Pat Lambie at 9, 10 and 12 and with captain Stefan Terblanche operating at outside centre, it is quite unlikely that the run-on backline (or, in fact the forward pack) will contain any changes at all for Friday’s match.
Continuity and momentum will be key as the Sharks face a tricky away fixture in Bloemfontein in round 4. Tinkering with the side now, I feel, would be a mistake and it’s crucial that the team really gets into the groove against the Pumas and scores a good bonus-point win ahead of the Cheetahs game.
Probable Sharks team: 15 Ludik, 14 Pietersen, 13 Terblanche (capt), 12 Lambie, 11 Mvovo, 10 Meyer, 9 McLeod, 8 Daniel, 7 Rhodes, 6 Botes, 5 Hargreaves, 4 Sykes, 3 Herbst, 2 Burden, 1 Cilliers
16 Cooper, 17 van Staden, 18 Skeate, 19 Alberts, 20 Kockott, 21 Dumond, 22 Ndungane