Fitness over form for Sharks

2010-04-16 00:00

WITH fitness rather than form his only concern, Sharks coach John Plumtree yesterday kept changes to a minimum in naming his team to meet the Lions in tomorrow evening’s Super 14 game at Ellis Park.

In contrast, Lions coach Dick Muir has made six changes and dropped his most expensive signing, former All Blacks flyhalf Carlos Spencer, for the Ellis Park clash.

One Sharks player, number eight Ryan Kankowski, has been sidelined by a fractured thumb while another, lock Johann Muller, returns after breaking his finger in the two changes to the team which started against the Queensland Reds.

Plumtree might well have made another change, had open side flank Keegan Daniel, who is nursing a shoulder injury, been fit — and the Sharks could lack some pace in the open spaces against a Lions team committed to an expansive attacking game.

But, without that option, he has added powerful flank Jean Deysel to the back row and shifted Willem Alberts from the side of the scrum to number eight.

In the only other change, Muller is back at lock and Alistair Hargreaves, who has shown encouraging form in recent weeks, drops to the bench.

Rather than bring in a new face to replace Deysel among the replacements, Plumtree has named Hargreaves and Wilhelm Steenkamp, two mobile locks, to cover both the second row and loose forward.

The successes of the past three weeks — following the defeats of the first five — has brought continuity to Plumtree’s selection and he has named an unchanged back line with fullback/wing Stefan Terblanche retained at outside centre in place of injured Adi Jacobs.

He has also kept the same front row for the fourth week in a row — in spite of the best efforts of the Durban citing officer to have prop Jannie du Plessis suspended — with John Smit staying on at loosehead ahead of Beast Mtawarira.

While the Sharks’ forwards may lack mobility, they will not be short of power and muscle with Deysel (112 kg) joining the 121 kg Alberts in the back row, while tight forwards Jannie du Plessis, John Smit and Steven Sykes are all over 118 kg.

The dropping of Spencer to the bench is one of half-a-dozen changes Muir has made to the Lions’ starting team. Spencer has been replaced by former Sharks flyhalf Herkie Kruger, who should also solve the Lions’ goalkicking problems and prove more reliable defensively.

Former Bulls centre Marius Delport takes over from Walter Venter, who was injured against the Reds last weekend, while the nippy Tonderai Chavhanga is on the wing in place of Wigan Pekeur.

Muir has surprisingly dumped loosehead prop Heinke van der Merwe in favour of JC Janse van Rensburg. Hans van Dyk starts at hooker while Derick Minnie makes way for competitive U.S. number eight Todd Clever.

TEAMS:

Sharks

15. Patrick Lambie, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Riaan Swanepoel, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Andy Goode, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Willem Alberts, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Johann Muller, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. John Smit (c).

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Beast Mtawarira, 18. Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19. Alistair Hargreaves, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Andries Strauss, 22. Lwazi Mvovo.

Lions:

15. Michael Killian, 14. Tonderai Chavhanga, 13. Marius Delport, 12. Doppies la Grange, 11. Wandile Mjekevu, 10. Herkie Kruger, 9. Jano Vermaak, 8. Todd Clever, 7. Wikus van Heerden, 6. Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Nico Luus, 3. Gert Muller, 2. Hans van Dyk, 1. JC Janse van Rensburg.

Replacements: 16. Hannes Franklin, 17. Heinke van der Merwe, 18. Willem Stoltz, 19. Derick Minnie, 20. Chris Jonck, 21. Deon van Rensburg, 22. Carlos Spencer

Kickoff: 5.05 pm

Referee: Mark Lawrence (SA)

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