So what does “first choice” look like anyway?

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 30 Sep 2013 at 14:51
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The Sharks coaches have said, on a number of occasions, that Friday’s match against the Blue Bulls would mark the start of a period of continuity, leading into the Currie Cup knock-outs. That after employing a successful rotation policy for the first eight games of the campaign. A number of factors complicate this plan, however.

I’m sure I’m not alone in wondering exactly how you go about picking a first choice side, given the sheer number of players that have put their hands up over the course of the campaign. While it should be relatively easy in some cases, other positions – such as the second row, loose forward combination and centre pairing – really could go any of a number of ways. Further adding flies to this already buzzing pot of ointment is the anticipated return of seven players from the national squad next week, thus making it rather likely that there will be further changes ahead of the Western Province match too.

I’d argue that the front row and halfback combinations are as settled as they’re’ going to get – although obviously here there will be change when the big guns get back. Dale Chadwick, Kyle Cooper and Wiehahn Herbst have proved the best “alternate” front row over the course of the competition, while Charl McLeod and Fred Zeilinga deserve their halfback positions based on form over the duration of the campaign. This latter pairing may just be somewhat surprising, given that they possibly started the season as second-choice picks.

With young Stephan Lewies having acquitted himself rather well in the number 5 jersey on Friday, there’s a pretty good chance that he’ll keep the spot this week, given the lack of competition in that position. It’s anybody’s guess, however, whether the coaches consider Edwin Hewitt or Peet Marais to be the front runner for the number 4 jersey. Likewise, the wings more or less pick themselves, with Lwazi Mvovo and Odwa Ndungane pretty sure to continue their stints at 11 and 14 respectively.

Expect Jacques Botes, Jean Deysel and Keegan Daniel to form the loose trio, with the exact jersey numbers still unclear (although Daniel must surely have done enough to hang on to his favoured number 8 for another week). Of the alternates, Tera Mtembu is perhaps the unluckiest man to lose out on a starting spot, while Justin Downey and Brynard Stander have also been good when asked to step in. Lingering doubts about the effectiveness of the two smaller men in tandem won’t prevent the coaches picking them, with both Daniel (100 Currie Cup caps) and Botes (join-most Currie Cup caps) set for milestones at Loftus.

Few would argue that Heimar Williams and Tim Whitehead look the better centre pair, but let’s not forget that it was Whitehead and Ludik who started off the season in possession. One really battles to imagine a “first choice” team that doesn’t have Ludik’s name somewhere in it, so the only real question is whether Williams has done enough to force the coaches to move Ludik back to fullback, where he must surely still be close to first choice.

The emergence of SP Marais as a major attacking threat, though, puts a big spanner in those works. While not as safe as Ludik on defence, there is simply no disputing that deadly attacking edge that the former Kings player brings to the Sharks’ backline play and again it’s hard to imagine the coaches opting to leave him out. One possible alternative is to pick Marais at wing, in place of Ndungane, but again, a player of Odwa’s experience and big game mettle is unlikely to be omitted as the competition nears its business end.

If I were to take a punt at what the coaches might do for this weekend, my line-up would look like this:

Sharks (possible): 15 SP Marais, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Louis Ludik, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Edwin Hewitt, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick
16 Mondea Hadebe, 17 Danie Mienie, 18 Peet Marais, 19 Tera Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Butch James, 22 Heimar Williams


  • Williams and Whitehead has to be the centre combo. I think Ludik should be moved to the wing and he and SP Marais can alternate with Ludik at 15 on defense but 14 on attack and SP at 15 on attack and 14 on defense. And I feel that Tera has done enough in his two games to justify starting ahead of Botes

  • Comment 1, posted at 30.09.13 15:05:42 by woody Reply
  • Why is James there?

  • Comment 2, posted at 30.09.13 15:16:55 by Son Of Mayhem Reply
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  • @woody (Comment 1) : I am so absolutely with you there! Although I dither on the Botes issue, and thank goodness I am not the one choosing.

    Rob, what is happening with Ludik is he staying or going?

  • Comment 3, posted at 30.09.13 15:18:34 by Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette Reply

    Sharksmad - The Blog's Dudette
  • @Sharksmad – The Blog’s Dudette (Comment 3) : he’s going

  • Comment 4, posted at 30.09.13 15:52:42 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 4) :

    Any news on Burden? Did he managed to impress at Toulon?

  • Comment 5, posted at 30.09.13 16:00:26 by Pokkel Reply
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  • @Pokkel (Comment 5) : nothing official, but unofficially it sounds like he’s going to stay

  • Comment 6, posted at 30.09.13 16:01:09 by robdylan Reply
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  • @robdylan (Comment 6) : Stay at Toulon?

  • Comment 7, posted at 30.09.13 16:03:02 by Pokkel Reply
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  • Is Bresler confirmed out for the season?

  • Comment 8, posted at 30.09.13 16:08:54 by Greg Reply

  • @Pokkel (Comment 7) : sorry, at Toulon, yes.

  • Comment 9, posted at 30.09.13 16:09:40 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Greg (Comment 8) : no, not confirmed officially, but I think the smart money is on that.

  • Comment 10, posted at 30.09.13 16:10:00 by robdylan Reply
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  • Good side. Tough on Williams, but he has time on his side.

    On the other hand, building for next year, one could argue that its better to blood him now, since Ludik is leaving anyway.

  • Comment 11, posted at 30.09.13 16:57:06 by Big Fish Reply
    Big Fish
  • @Big Fish (Comment 11) : I would be quite happy with Williams starting at 12… in fact, might even be tempted to bench Whitehead in that case.

    Or what the hell – bench Ludik. Nice option to have on the bench to close out the game at fullback after Marais has done his thing for 50 min…

  • Comment 12, posted at 30.09.13 17:01:58 by robdylan Reply
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  • I have always liked Lwazi Mvovo, but …. does he currently really deserve his place in the side? During the last few matches, he seemed lethargic and does not seem to look for work on the field — the exact opposite of Odwa Ndungane, who works hard and gives his all. Players should be selected according to current form (and not according to history), and I am sure some other backs will do much better on wing than Lwazi … sorry …… 🙁

  • Comment 13, posted at 30.09.13 17:12:35 by swan Reply

  • @Big Fish (Comment 11) : To me this is a no brainer. Ludik is as good as gone. He had some good games at centre but its not really his position and at times he was found wanting. Williams is the prospect going forward and as the CC should be used to plan for the future, picking Ludik at his expense would be idiotic. Same goes for the FB position. Marais will be around for the Super 15. He needs to play. Ludik should lose out. Its tough, but its best for the Sharks in the long run.

  • Comment 14, posted at 30.09.13 17:15:13 by Pablo Dinero Reply

    Pablo Dinero
  • @Pablo Dinero (Comment 14) : I can go along with that thinking, yes.

  • Comment 15, posted at 30.09.13 17:16:54 by robdylan Reply
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  • @Son Of Mayhem (Comment 2) : Because he is the 2nd best flyhalf available in Durban! Not sure why there is so much Butch bashing lately. Who is the alternative?

  • Comment 16, posted at 30.09.13 17:18:40 by soutie Reply

  • Williams 12, Whitehead 13.

  • Comment 17, posted at 30.09.13 17:48:49 by Talent Reply
  • @swan (Comment 13) : in the beginning of the season I would of agreed with you but since the break he really has found some form. I think the coaches probable sat with him and he realizes now that he is a bigger part of the team then he realized. Getting dropped from the boks must of done his ego some damage but he is showing why the sharks need him come finals time…

  • Comment 18, posted at 30.09.13 18:10:28 by shaniboi Reply

  • I more or less agree about this week, although I would put Ludik on the wing with Ndungane moving to the bench with Williams at 12 and Whitehead at 13. Next week though, I would pick the following side:

    1. Beast
    2. du Plessis
    3. Herbst
    4. Marais
    5. du Toit
    6. Coetzee
    7. Deysel
    8. Daniel
    9. McLeod
    10. Lambie
    11. Mvovo
    12. Williams
    13. Whitehead
    14. Ludik
    15. Marais

    16. Cooper
    17. du Plessis
    18. Hewitt
    19. Alberts
    20. Botes
    21. Reinach
    22. Zeilinga

  • Comment 19, posted at 30.09.13 18:38:47 by David12246 Reply

  • By the way, any word on Steyn?

  • Comment 20, posted at 30.09.13 19:17:52 by David12246 Reply

  • Currie Cup expansion has been squashed!

    What a downer.

    Pumas and Kings are ready for premier division.

  • Comment 21, posted at 30.09.13 19:54:31 by FireTheLooser Reply

  • Big Fish Comment 11 and Swan Comment 13 – I agree with everything you both said!

  • Comment 22, posted at 30.09.13 22:05:25 by [email protected] Reply

  • Agree with everything except the centre pairing.

    Ludik hasn’t had a single good game in the 13 jersey. He looks distinctly uncomfortable in the position and certainly doesn’t have the skill set of TW. Good in defence yes, but the Sharks backline have really clicked since TW and HW have started playing together.

    I would play Ludik at 14 or reserve backline player. Able to come on in place of 15, 14 and 13.

  • Comment 23, posted at 01.10.13 08:29:24 by John Galt Reply

    John Galt
  • @Son Of Mayhem (Comment 2) :
    If Zielinga goes down in a semi or the final, who else would you have come on to steer the ship in a tight game?

    Who would be your backup 10?

  • Comment 24, posted at 01.10.13 08:31:29 by John Galt Reply

    John Galt
  • @John Galt (Comment 23) : Me too. Are any of you guy’s also concerned about that WP game? I have no fear to face the bulls this weekend, but just a tad worried that the return of the boks might disrupt our game as it has done in the past…

  • Comment 25, posted at 01.10.13 08:32:46 by R Hayward Reply

  • @R Hayward (Comment 25) :
    Yeah maybe a bit concerned but you have to remember that WP will also have Bok players coming back.
    They’ll also have to manage the process of reintergrating them into the team. I personally think that the positions we desperately we need abck are in the forwards anyway.

    I would welcome Beast back straight away. Jannie can play off the bench as he really needs a bit of a rest.
    Bismark would only be good to start as well.
    Alberts at 4 lock or 7 would also be great considering we have a lack of quality 4 locks all of a sudden. And PSDT at 5 would be unbelievable.

    So youre looking at a pack of 1 Beast, 2 Bis, 3 Herbst, 4 Alberts, 5 PSDT, 6 Botes, 7, Deysel, 8 Daniel.
    That’s a bloody strong pack to go with a nicely functioning backline.

  • Comment 26, posted at 01.10.13 08:41:26 by John Galt Reply

    John Galt
  • @John Galt (Comment 24) : By then Lambie will be back, so while I agree that Butch is valuable, your argument is a bit moot.

  • Comment 27, posted at 01.10.13 08:42:02 by David12246 Reply

  • @John Galt (Comment 26) : Totally agree…. BUT 2 concerns:
    1. Our boks just never seem to integrate as well as other teams…
    2. Will our boks adapt FAST enough in a week to fall into what has been done all CC season now under the new structures????

  • Comment 28, posted at 01.10.13 08:45:34 by R Hayward Reply

  • @JG; hopefully Fred doesnt get injured :mrgreen: I suppose Hansie Graaff is stil injured?

  • Comment 29, posted at 01.10.13 08:53:28 by Son Of Mayhem Reply
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  • @David12246 (Comment 27) :
    Yeah True. Will be interesting to see if Lambie gets brought back straight away actually. As with my post 26 above, I suppose he would be a welcome addition.
    @R Hayward (Comment 28) :
    Yeah agreed, its a tough decision for the coaches to make.

  • Comment 30, posted at 01.10.13 09:02:57 by John Galt Reply

    John Galt

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