The signs are well and truly out there that the Sharks will field a significantly changed (and much younger) outfit against the Kings this weekend. Rob du Preez’s hand will be forced to an extent by injuries, but he’ll also take the opportunity to rest some of his Springboks and other senior players, a plan that would have been put into place even had Pat Lambie and the others not cried off.
One personnel loss that wasn’t anticipated, though, is that of Clément Poitrenaud and while the veteran Frenchman hasn’t been completely ruled out as yet, the smart money is on Curwin Bosch being asked to start at fullback, notwithstanding his fine individual performance as a pivot against the Waratahs. Rob looks set to gamble with the untested Ben Janse van Rensburg at flyhalf, a risky move at this level of the game, but one the coach seems prepared to make, knowing he has such capable backup in Bosch. Janse van Rensburg is a player who has clearly impressed the coach during his time at the Leopards and in cases like this, you often need to let a coach go with his gut and make the selection that he thinks is going to work.
It appears that both Lwazi Mvovo and Kobus van Wyk will sit out this week and du Preez will use the opportunity, it seems, to both blood a real youngster in Sbu Nkosi while also adding much-needed experience in the form of Odwa Ndungane. That leaves just Cobus Reinach, Andre Esterhuizen and Lukhanyo Am of the backline that started last week.
Up front, there will also be changes: at least four of them. Beast Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen will rest, with Franco Marais’s injury meaning an all-new front row. Thomas du Toit and Lourens Adriaanse will be the props, with Chiliboy Ralepelle likely to start at hooker. Jacques Vermeulen should come in for Philip van der Walt on the flank, with the rest of the unit unchanged.
Du Preez will further need to raid the wider squad to find some new bench options. Don’t be too surprised if the team lines up something like the following:
Possible Sharks: 15 Bosch, 14 Ndungane, 13 Am, 12 Esterhuizen, 11 Nkosi, 10 Janse van Rensburg, 9 Reinach, 8 Mtembu (capt), 7 Du Preez, 6 Vermeulen, 5 Botha, 4 Lewies, 3 Adriaanse, 2 Ralepelle, 1 Du Toit
Subs: 16 Coetzee, 17 Schoeman, 18 Meyer, 19 Oosthuizen, 20 Droste/du Preez, 21 Claassens, 22 Ward, 23 Smith/April/Radebe