With news filtering through that Bok players will be released back to their provincial teams on conclusion of the Rugby Championship tournament on Sunday, this weekend may well be the last round of the 2012 Currie Cup where teams will field so-called “under strength” line-ups.
This has historically been somewhat of a contentious issue and looking at the Sharks specifically, the reintroduction of Springbok players just ahead of the Currie Cup knock-out phase did little to help their cause in either 2009 or 2011. In fact, last year in particular, both the Sharks and Western Province came unstuck against a Lions side who went into the knock-outs with nowhere near as many star names on paper, but rather had form and continuity on the field of play, which proved to be worth more.
That said, the Sharks will definitely look to use their returning Boks for the final round-robin game against Griquas next Friday – as well as the knock-out games to follow – meaning that Saturday’s outing against teh Cheetahs in Bloemfontein may represent the final opportunity for some of the players who’ve played big roles so far this season to prove that they deserve to retain their places once the big boys are back.
There are bitterly few in the current team who can be absolutely ensured of a stay of execution; only Anton Bresler, Keegan Daniel, Charl McLeod and Cobus Reinach can be sure of places for the semis, while the loss of Frans Steyn to injury means that Meyer Bosman, Tim Whitehead and Paul Jordaan won’t all miss out. Likewise, you’d fancy that one of Louis Ludik and Riaan Viljoen would feature, with Odwa Ndungane’s experience also likely to secure a match 22 place at least.
For the rest, though, Saturday may just represent their last chance saloon for the season and if they don’t manage to quite do enough to convince the coaches to pick them ahead of established Boks for next weekend’s game, they’ll hope, at least, to erase any lingering doubts about their suitability for Super Rugby squad places next year.Tweet