We’ve been asking this question for quite some time now. Will the Sharks be able to play Frans Steyn in the playoffs? Well firstly let me just get the jinx out of the way and say that obviously this depends on whether they do enough against the Cheetahs to remain in 6th spot on the log, just above the chasing Reds and Hurricanes. This question does not assume that we will automatically make it into the playoffs. The boys still have to focus on one thing and one thing only, crushing the Cheetahs this Saturday at 5pm.
But let us, as fans, just set that aside for a second. We all know the quality of Frans Steyn. Some of us knew it earlier than others, but that doesn’t matter the rest of you caught on and now we all know, having this wonder kid, now wonder …, um man, in any team would add value that cannot be denied anymore. So will he be available to play the last three games of the season?
As Steyn was not part of the registered Sharks squad in early February he cannot represent the side after the pool stage and won’t feature in the play-offs. Or will he? As sport live reported in one of their articles last week before the Bulls game, it will take extreme circumstances, such as the Sharks proving they have no other centre options because of injury or suspension to make him eligible, but to prove that would require some inventiveness by the Sharks. We all thus agreed that Steyn’s primary role will be to help ensure that the Sharks reach the last six and then sit on the sidelines.
However, from John Plumtree’s reaction at an earlier press conference the idea of Steyn being involved in the playoffs does not seem as far fetched as we may have thought. “Marius Joubert is struggling with a chronic ankle injury. Paul Jordaan has got a hamstring injury. At the moment we’re pretty short in the midfield and we’ll go through that process (of applying for Frans Steyn’s availability) if we can’t get Paul Jordaan and Marius Joubert fit.
The Sharks might be stretching it. JP Pietersen was the first choice outside centre with Tim Whitehead and Meyer Bosman, both of whom are still available for selection. Paul Jordaan, in fact, is the only player who can be seen as a midfield injury for the Sharks, as Marius Joubert’s involvement was very limited and aside from the injured Jordaan, Whitehead, Bosman and JP Pietersen, seemed to be the preferred midfield options during the last few weeks. Whitehead and JP was used as a combination only 2 games back, against the Lions, when Jordaan was unavailable through Jnr World Cup selection. Then there’s also Pat Lambie, who has run out for the Sharks in the number 12 jersey on various occasions and could be seen as more than a capable cover if the situation requires it. The injuries to Jordaan and Joubert then hardly leaves the Sharks short on midfield options? Or does it?
I suppose the Sharks are well within their rights to select the players in the position that they feel will best suit the team and can presumably not be forced to select a player out of position. JP Pietersen has played wing for most of his career and represented both the Sharks and the Springboks for more than 50 games playing here. He was moved back to his favoured 14 jersey for the Boks and delivered some outstanding rugby, including a man of the match performance in the second game at Ellis Park during the inbound tour against England. If Joubert and Jordaan’s fitness do not improve , it then leaves Bosman and Whitehead as the only centres in the squad. This could already grant the Sharks the right to select another centre to cover the bench. Considering that Lambie has also been selected as a fullback recently and might continue to play in this position we may also need cover at flyhalf for Frederic Michalak who has started in this position for the last 5 games. Assuming Meyer Bosman will be given this responsibility he too will be unavailable for selection in the midfield, leaving only Tim Whitehead as a viable option to cover both positions.
It is not as if the Sharks are suddenly selecting players out of position to create a situation in which Steyn’s availability for selection to the Sharks will be made plausible. If Steyn cannot be selected, Jordaan and Joubert do not recover from their injuries and the Sharks chooses to select the same team they have for 5 weeks with Patrick Lambie at Fullback and Fred Michalak at Flyhalf, they will be forced to pick uncapped players to cover the bench or go without Flyhalf and Centre cover. Surely the Sharks should be allowed to select one or even two midfield replacements and surely given the fact that no other player has been used throughout the season in this position, Frans Steyn’s continued selection in the midfield should be allowed come the playoff stages?
It remains to be seen, but for now, let’s just get by the Cheetahs first, because they will not just roll over.Tweet