Will Sharks reshuf­fle for Gri­quas clash?


THE RUGBY Cham­pi­onship drew to a close on a week­end where no Cur­rie Cup ac­tion was on of­fer, and what that means for the teams head­ing into the fi­nal round of the reg­u­lar sea­son is that there will be an in­flux of tal­ent avail­able.

For the Sharks, the ques­tion is how does coach Robert du Preez go about util­is­ing his Spring­bok stars? WESTERN Prov­ince as­sis­tant coach Dawie Sny­man says it doesn’t mat­ter where Damian Willemse plays when they face the Bulls at Lof­tus on Sat­ur­day.

The re­turn of some of their Spring­bok play­ers will give head coach John Dob­son a se­lec­tion headache or two as the Boks who aren’t con­tracted will be avail­able for the Pre­to­ria fix­ture – mean­ing that the likes of tight­head prop Wilco Louw, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, loose-for­ward Sikhum­buzo Not­she and Willemse could all be in­jected into WP’s week­end line-up.

Sny­man said that whether Willemse plays at 10 or 15 doesn’t re­ally mat­ter.

There has been no real is­sues in the Sharks’ squad when it comes to abil­ity, rather the is­sue have all been team-based and cen­tre around the in­abil­ity to take all their chances – and per­haps even com­pla­cency in a wa­tered-down tour­na­ment.

The Sharks have a rel­a­tively easy game to round out the reg­u­lar sea­son, as they face the Gri­quas who have just the one win to their name. How­ever, it is a game on the dry, hard pitches of Kim­ber­ley.

“The Spring­boks have had a look at him as a full­back. He played full­back for us against Gri­quas and in last year’s fi­nal. But his best games in Su­per Rugby came at fly­half. So we will have to see how the week goes.”

“Damian is a spe­cial player. What is nice about some­one who can play those 10 and 15, is that he can play as a first re­ceiver and in the wider chan­nels as well. So we can use him in dif­fer­ent ways.”

While Sny­man be­lieves the re­turn of their Boks won’t be a dis­rup­tion, he also said that it’s go­ing to be im­por­tant that WP hold onto the mo­men­tum and con­ti­nu­ity they’ve built up.

“There are guys who have been per­form­ing well, so we’ll have to look at that when we se­lect the team.

This match is a good op­por­tu­nity for play­ers who took a bye re­cently to work their way back to their best, and to rein­tro­duce a few star play­ers and get the team co­he­sion go­ing be­fore the semi-fi­nals.

The big­gest ques­tion will be how Du Preez goes about us­ing An­dre Ester­huizen, should the cen­tre be avail­able. Ester­huizen en­joyed a stint in Ja­pan last year at this time, but his Bok call-up may see him stay­ing put and play­ing some Cur­rie Cup.

“A lot of them have been a part of our squad. Wilco played for us against the Pu­mas and Gri­quas, Damian played against Gri­quas and Not­she played a few games.”

“They are guys who are used to what we do and how we play. It is not as if they are com­ing in from out­side and they don’t know what we’re do­ing.”

Shift­ing his fo­cus to the Bulls, Sny­man said that he’s ex­pect­ing a tough one and be­lieves the Pre­to­ria side have a point to prove.

“They have had three weeks off and will be ready for this game,” he said.

“They have been quite quiet but still had a very good Cur­rie Cup so peo­ple have not been pay­ing at­ten­tion to them. They are a good team and they will want to prove a point at Lof­tus.”

Mar­ius Louw has been in­fal­li­ble at No 12, but if they are look­ing for an­other big run­ning cen­tre, Ester­huizen is a bit of a step up in a sim­i­lar mould to Louw.

The Sharks will also have an em­bar­rass­ment of front row riches with Thomas du Toit’s at­ten­tion no longer di­vided be­tween the Boks and the Sharks – although he was left out of the home leg of the Rugby Cham­pi­onship.

Beast Mtawarira also re­turns to WITH a semi-fi­nal place on the line, the big ques­tion is will Lions coach Ivan van Rooyen throw his big guns into the clash against the Pu­mas in Nel­spruit on Fri­day?

The Lions go into the fi­nal round-robin game in fourth place with 16 points, while the Pu­mas are fifth with 12 points. The win­ner will play in the semi-fi­nals; the loser’s sea­son will be over.

But while the Pu­mas has proven a tough nut to crack at home in Nel­spruit and should fancy their chances against their ri­vals from Joburg, Van Rooyen has a few aces up his sleeve this week, which could prove telling.

With the Rugby Cham­pi­onship done and dusted, sev­eral Spring­bok play­ers are all of a sud­den avail­able to the Lions. Backs Aphiwe Dyan­tyi (pic­tured), Lionel Mapoe, El­ton Jan­tjies and Ross Cronje could move straight into the start­ing team for this week­end’s match, while War­ren White­ley – who missed both home Tests of the Rugby Cham­pi­onship re­cently be­cause of in­jury – will have to pass a fit­ness test be­fore he is con­sid­ered.

Hooker Mal­colm Marx, who was man of the match against New Zealand at Lof­tus Vers­feld on Sat­ur­day, may be given a week off, con­sid­er­ing he has played a lot of rugby re­cently.

Van Rooyen will cer­tainly be des­per­ate to get these stars into Dur­ban, but as a con­tracted Spring­bok should sit out of the Cur­rie Cup. That be­ing said, he was used far less towards the end of the Cham­pi­onship and may well ben­e­fit from a bit of game time.

Sbu Nkosi will also be fully fo­cused on the Boks af­ter be­ing dropped late for the home leg of the Cham­pi­onship. The winger has re­turned from in­jury and will surely be rar­ing to get back to full fit­ness ahead of the end of year tour. the mix as quickly as pos­si­ble as he looks to se­cure a last-four place. And how the Lions could do with a boost right now.

Af­ter mak­ing a good start to the Cur­rie Cup com­pe­ti­tion, with wins against Gri­quas, the Chee­tahs and the Bulls, Van Rooyen’s team came un­stuck in their two most re­cent out­ings. Against the Sharks on Septem­ber 22, they lost 37-21, while the week be­fore that they were handed a 65-38 hid­ing by Western Prov­ince.

A win for the Lions would also see them move into third place and over­take the Bulls (17 points) should the Pre­to­ria-based team fail to beat Western Prov­ince – the run­away log lead­ers with a per­fect five-out-of-five record for 25 points – at Lof­tus on Sat­ur­day.

Van Rooyen will name his team for Fri­day’s match to­day.

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