As the Sharks get into Currie Cup mode, after a superb come-from-behind victory at Newlands in the opening round, ahead lay some interesting selection posers which is sure to have Plumtree and his assistants scratching their heads.
Firstly, the Sharks managed a good victory, albeit rather lucky, with the team that was selected to take on Western Province, which excluded certain players that were involved in Super Rugby, so that those players could get a brief break and let the body recover. Now we are into the second week, and the question is – do we keep the team and go for some form of consistency, or do we make wholesale changes?
There are pro’s and con’s to both these scenarios. Let’s have a look at what will happen if we keep the starting team unchanged and bring those players back onto the bench. This will mean that Anton Bresler, Charl McLeod and Louis Ludik will move onto the bench, with Peet Marais, Conrad Hoffmann and Marius Joubert or Rosco Speckman falling out of the match 22. The latter should put a smile on a few faces, but let’s move on.
The positives here, firstly, are that a settled team will face the Lions this weekend, a team that has come through a tough opening encounter, taking quite a bit of confidence into this weekend. Certain combinations would have gelled nicely with the extra week of training, and we can expect better showings from the front row, the line-out work with a settled second row, as well as in the backline, where the half backs have a second week to gain an understanding.
This will also allow the likes of Bresler, McLeod and Ludik to sit on the bench, not only meaning another week off, but will give the team some back-up, should the game plan or players selected not pull through.
The other side of the coin is to push these players back into starting line-up with immediate effect, which should make a difference to the team in terms of experience and grunt, especially in the case of Bresler, but this could backfire as these players can potentially be off the boil following their break. Not that they can lose all form from sitting one week out, but it is possible that they are out of the loop and could harm the momentum gained from beating Province this weekend.
Personally, I would bring the rested players onto the bench, allowing some momentum for the first half of the match, with a thrust of fresh and experienced players to come on in the second half, early second half if we are battling or late in the second half if the game is going our way.