Bulky Steyn back in Sharks squad for Crusaders clash

2013-04-04 00:00

FRANS Steyn, the bulky Springbok centre who has been battling poor form and the bathroom scale, is back in the Sharks team to face the Crusaders in tomorrow night’s Super Rugby game at King’s Park.

But Steyn, who captained the team from inside centre at the start of the season but was then dropped, will return at fullback, taking over from Louis Ludik in one of three changes to the team that thumped the Rebels in their last outing.

Odwa Ndungane replaces the injured Lwazi Mvovo on the wing while experienced Springbok tighthead Jannie du Plessis takes over from Wiehahn Herbst in the only change to the pack.

Head coach John Plumtree, in relegating the 109 kg Steyn to the bench last month, said the Springbok needed intensive conditioning following a lengthy injury break.

Steyn has been working hard to reach his fighting weight of 105 kg and Plumtree said yesterday he was looking forward to seeing how he performs against the Crusaders.

“Frans also brings a long kicking game to the team and defensively he’s very sound. He’ll get more space [than he had at inside centre] for attacking, so it will be good to see how he goes.”

Plumtree said that Ludik had a shoulder problem and he has been bracketed with wing S’Bura Sithole on the bench.

“I’m hoping Ludik will improve before the match but we also have [flyhalf/fullback] Riaan Viljoen among the replacements.”

The skills of the young Pieter-Steph du Toit have been retained at lock with Anton Bresler, back from injury, included on the bench.

The Sharks lineout will be under pressure from the Crusaders who pinched six of the Stormers’ throws in winning 19-14 at Newlands last Saturday.

“You can’t have a meltdown in an area like the lineouts,” said Plumtree. “It takes good, hard work to get into an attacking situation, and then to lose ball puts you under immense pressure.

“And you don’t want to be doing that against a team like the Crusaders who are able to hold on to the ball for long periods of time. The lineout has been a big focus for us, not only for this match but throughout the competition.”

Plumtree said the Sharks’ lineout was operating “at around 84%”, which he said was satisfactory.

“But it is going to be tough against the Crusaders with their All Black locks.”

The Sharks coach said he wanted to develop the 20-year-old Du Toit’s game this year. “He took his opportunity against the Rebels and I wanted to reward him with a start against the Crusaders. Anton Bresler will get an opportunity to play off bench.”

The Sharks coach said he was also encouraged by the form of hooker Kyle Cooper against the Rebels.

“He threw in well and his contribution around the field was immense, so it looks as though he is stepping up. It is another situation of seeing how he goes against stiffer opposition.”

Plumtree said the injuries in the squad were proving frustrating “for everyone”.

“Bismarck du Plessis is on track and I’m hoping he will make the tour [at the end of April] and we expect to have Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel back in the next two weeks.”

The bad news is that the fractured bone in TimWhitehead’s arm has not knitted so he could miss the tour but, he added, Butch James (recovering from knee surgery) should be fit to travel.

Sharks team:

15. Francois Steyn, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12.Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8.Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Marcell Coetzee, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Ryan Kankowski, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Riaan Viljoen, 22. Louis Ludik/S’bura Sithole.

Kick-off: 7.10 pm. Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (RSA).

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