While it’s to be applauded that Sharks coach John Plumtree has kept his match 22 unchanged for this weekend’s clash against the Stomers, the elevation of Jean Deysel to the starting line-up, in place of Jacques Botes, has raised eyebrows in certain quarters.
It was felt that Botes had acquitted himself well against the Cheetahs, after a solid pre-season that saw him emerge as the pick of the try-scorers, admittedly against rather weak opposition. With Keegan Daniel out of action, Botes remains the only “smaller” loose forward in the Sharks’ current squad and while neither is exactly a fetcher in the true sense of the word, it’s been shown in the past that having one of them in the trio does tend to break up the monotony and result in more adventurous loose forward play, than would be the case if three behemoths were picked together.
Plumtree has opted to rather shift Marcell Coetzee to the open-side for this clash, thus returning Deysel to the number 7 jersey that seemed his birthright just a few short seasons ago. Still smarting from the line-out hammering the Sharks took against Western Province in the Currie Cup Final, Plumtree has told Beeld’s Christo Buchner that the switch has been made simply in terms of giving the Sharks more line-out options. It mustn’t be forgotten that while Botes may appear a like-for-like replacement for Daniel, the latter is in fact a pretty underrated line-out forward himself, with his relative lack of bulk and athleticism combining to allow ball to be won against far taller men; Botes has yet to show any capability in this area.
There could be another factor at play here as well. Simply put, the selection of Deysel and Coetzee in tandem should, in theory, free up Ryan Kankowski to play a slightly looser game. While the big eighthman has been winning plaudits for the new and improved “hard edge” to his game in recent times, let’s not forget that it is the free-running Kanko that we know and love who remains one of the Sharks’ primary forward strike weapions.Tweet