Sharks need to make rad­i­cal im­prove­ment against Li­ons

The Witness - Wheels - - SPORT - JOHN BISHOP Sharks rugby

THE changes will be limited but the im­prove­ment will have to be rad­i­cal if the Sharks are to top­ple the Li­ons in Satur­day night’s Su­per Rugby out­ing at King’s Park.

The Sharks played the per­fect hosts at the week­end when they made it easy for the en­thu­si­as­tic Chee­tahs as they were outscored by four tries to two. The Sharks did lit­tle right on the night but most wor­ry­ing was their lack of vigour, par­tic­u­larly as their phys­i­cal ap­proach had been high­lighted as one of their strengths.

The Li­ons will seek to em­u­late the Chee­tahs and test the Sharks in sim­i­lar ar­eas on Satur­day — at the scrum, the break­down, in their sup­port play and by at­tack­ing space — but they will be even more threat­en­ing.

The good news for the King’s Park crowd is that the Sharks have left room aplenty for im­prove­ment and they will surely be bet­ter on Satur­day night with the re­turn from in­jury of the com­bat­ive Bis­marck du Plessis lift­ing their com­mit­ment and in­ten­sity.

And, be­cause it was the first out­ing and prepa­ra­tion was limited to one pre- sea­son friendly, head coach Gary Gold is cer­tain to give nearly all the play­ers an­other chance to prove that last Satur­day’s limp ef­forts were not an ac­cu­rate re­flec­tion of their po­ten­tial.

The one un­forced change could come on the flank where the bruis­ing Jean Dey­sel, who sparked the pack into life when he came on as a re­place­ment against the Chee­tahs, could take over from Re­naldo Bothma.

The in­jury to loose­head Beast Mtawarira has re­opened the door for the 19- year- old Thomas du Toit, who burst on the scene last year but failed to gain se­lec­tion for the Chee­tahs game.

As­sis­tant coach Sean Everitt said this week the 120 kg Du Toit would be in the squad for Satur­day but would not start.

“Los­ing a Spring­bok tight for­ward [ Mtawarira] is ob­vi­ously a blow to any team but we back our squad and we’ve got a guy like Dale Chad­wick as well as Thomas du Toit who came out re­ally well last year in his de­but in Su­per Rugby.”

While many were sur­prised that the Sharks opted for the past ( dis­carded Eng­land prop Matt Stevens) in­stead of the fu­ture ( Du Toit) on the bench against the Chee­tahs, Everitt de­fended the se­lec­tion.

“With the depth we’ve got in the front- row some­body has to lose out. Ini­tially it was Thomas but it was never that he wasn’t go­ing to play Su­per Rugby. Now that he’s got an op­por­tu­nity he will fea­ture off the bench and we’ll take it from there next week.”

While the tal­ented Du Toit has played most of his rugby at loose­head, there is a grow­ing feel­ing, even among some mem­bers of the Spring­bok hi­er­ar­chy, that he could be even more ef­fec­tive on the tight­head.

Mean­while, the Sharks’ Ja­pan- based per­son­nel are grad­u­ally drib­bling back to Dur­ban. Coach Gold was the first, Dey­sel fol­lowed just over a week ago, for­mer Spring­bok Ryan Kankowski ar­rived at prac­tice on Mon­day and Test play­ers Frans Steyn and JP PI­etersen are ex­pected back in a fort­night.

Kankowski’s ca­reer has stalled in re­cent years and he has strug­gled for the Sharks af­ter stints in Ja­pan. It is un­likely he will be rushed into ac­tion, but he does pro­vide Gold with back­row op­tions.

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