The Sharks are going to be up against it at Kings Park on Friday night, with no fewer than three key forwards understood to be in doubt for the game. Most crucial among those, though, is Willem “Big Vic” Alberts, who appears to still be struggling with the knee injury he picked up on Bok duty.
Causing further concern will be the loss of Steven Sykes, who underwent a minor knee procedure after the last Super Rugby game a month ago but might not quite make it in time for Friday, while veteran Jacques Botes has also been in good form, but is unlikely to play due to a shoulder injury. Coach Plumtree could bring in Jandre Marais for Sykes, but looks likely to instead back young Pieter-Steph du Toit to start his first Super Rugby game, in combination with Anton Bresler. It’s going to be a hell of a challenge for that young pairing up against the Bok combo of Juandre Kruger and Flip van der Merwe.
Marcell Coetzee and Jean Deysel will no doubt be the flanks this week, with Keegan Daniel and Ryan Kankowski the options at number 8. Assuming Daniel won’t lose the captaincy, it looks like Hoff will ride the bench for a week or two ahead of his departure for Japan.
The news is better amongst the backs, although (as Gavin Rich writes for Supersport) Paul Jordaan won’t play. The young centre has not yet recovered from the hamstring injury he picked up in the Junior World Championship, but with Frans Steyn and Tim Whitehead set to play together in midfield, the Sharks will be just fine there. Pat Lambie also seems fit, so it remains to be seen whether Plumtree opts for him at flyhalf, or rather backs Fred Michalak who always seems to play extra-well against the Bulls.
Possible Sharks team:
1 Mtawarira, 2 B du Plessis, 3 J du Plessis, 4 Bresler, 5 du Toit, 6 Coetzee, 7 Deysel, 8 Daniel (capt), 9 McLeod, 10 Michalak, 11 Mvovo, 12 Steyn, 13 Whitehead, 14 Pietersen, 15 Lambie
16 Burden, 17 Herbst, 18 Marais, 19 Kankowski, 20 Bosman, 21 Ndungane, 22 Ludik/Viljoen