Now that the Sharks will have to make a few changes because of injuries and also have a couple of options because of players returning from injury, it will be interesting to see how our new coaches handle the situation. Both Keegan Daniel and Tim Whitehead are regarded as key players in the Sharks team and would certainly have started every game had it not been for their injuries, but in their absence, Jacques Botes and Heimar Williams stepped in and both did a great job.
In Botes and Keegan’s case the transition might be a little more tricky. Botes was drafted into the starting line-up from out of the match 22 to cover for Daniel, which means, he will either have to take the place of Tera Mtembu (a young promising player) on the bench, or he will be dropped completely after two great performances. I for one would not like to see Mtembu being dropped and think the coaches got it right the first time when they made the decision to select either Daniel or Botes. Based on Botes’ form though, I may have changed my mind, as it could be hard to justify leaving him out of the 22 completely. Does this mean we might see another youngster in Brynard Stander maybe losing his spot in the starting 15, with Botes and Keegan combining in the loose trio with Deysel as they have done so many times before? Deysel might not available this weekend anyway, carrying a niggle himself, which would then mean Stander would naturally move into his spot and Keegan and Botes will probably start together automatically. But if Deysel is ready, it would also surely be between Stander and Botes for that last spot in the loose trio. So who should be selected experience or youth and potential?
Someone said of Botes’ first round performance, that age should not determine if a player gets selected or not, and Botes certainly showed that he still wants to play this season, but does this really ring true in a competition that teams usually use as a springboard for young players to make the step up to Super Rugby? My opinion is that, especially given the depth the Sharks have in this position for Super Rugby when the Springboks and overseas based players return, that a young player will really have to earn this particular spot, because it’s more important to have the quality of both Botes and Daniel on the field (when they are in form), to hopefully guide a relatively young team to another Currie Cup title.
As far as Heimar and Tim go, the transition can be made a little easier by a couple of things: firstly, injuries in the back-line already requires a shuffle, where Ludik could move into his more preferred position of fullback, opening up the outside center spot for Whitehead, who is just as comfortable there as he is at inside center. This combination could be an exciting prospect regardless of whether a place opened up in the back-line, especially given Louis Ludik’s less than exciting start to the season in that outside center position and the fact that he will not be available to the Sharks next year, as he too, as far as I know, is still leaving to play overseas.
If the Sharks prefer to make minimal changes though, Jaco van Tonder could be drafted into the starting line-up, or Sizo Maseke (also returning from injury) could shift into wing, with SP Marais moving to the back in place of the injured Odwa Ndungane. Tim can then start his first game of the bench, replacing Williams early in the second half. I have to be honest though, given the depth at center for the Sharks, it would be good if we start to look into a few plausible options in the midfield for next year and Williams and Whitehead might just be it.Tweet