The die has been cast and Rob du Preez has selected his 27 warriors to contest the first two matches in Super Rugby 2017. Flyhalf Pat Lambie captains the selection that will depart Durban on Salutary, ahead of crucial clashes with the Reds in Brisbane and the Brumbies in Canberra over the fortnight that follows.
The need to travel with five props and three hookers means there is room for only eleven backs in the tour party, with the other sixteen places going to forwards. Thomas du Toit has been passed fit to take his place as one of the five front-rankers; Springboks Beast Mtawarira, Lourens Adriaanse and Coenie Oosthuizen are also in the mix, with young Juan Schoeman earning the nod as fifth prop after an unfortunate injury ruled out John-Hubert Meyer. Stephan Coetzee, who joined the Sharks last year already but is yet to play a match for the Sharks, will serve as backup to regular hookers Chiliboy Ralepelle and Franco Marais.
Another player who has been passed fit to tour after a pre-season injury is lock Stephan Lewies; he will take his place in the tour squad alongside Etienne Oosthuizen and Ruan Botha, who have started the warm up games as a strong combination. Philip van der Walt, Tera Mtembu and Jean-Luc du Preez are included among the loose forwards, with newcomer Jacques Vermeulen backed for his versatility (as well as good form in the warm-ups). The final forward is Jean Droste, again selected for utility in being able to play at lock or in the back row.
Du Preez’s first-choice backline appears settled and is the same unit that began against a Bulls XV last week; Cobus Reinach and Lambie are the halfbacks, Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhany Am the centres, with Lwazi Mvovo, Kobus van Wyk and Curwin Bosch the back three. Michael Claassens covers the scrumhalf position (du Preez taking a chance with no third scrumhalf), with youngsters Jeremy Ward and S’busiso Nkosi and veteran Clem Poitrenaud completing the group.
Sharks tour squad: Beast Mtawarira, Thomas du Toit, Lourens Adriaanse, Coenie Oosthuizen, Juan Schoeman, Franco Marais, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Stephan Coetzee, Etienne Oosthuizen, Ruan Botha, Stephan Lewies, Philip van der Walt, Jacques Vermeulen, Jean-Luc du Preez, Tera Mtembu,Jean Droste, Cobus Reinach, Michael Claassens,Patrick Lambie (captain), Andre Esterhuizen, Lukhanyo Am, Jeremy Ward, Lwazi Mvovo, Kobus van Wyk, Sbu Nkosi, Curwin Bosch, Clément PoitrenaudTweet