Great test for Sharks

2014-02-05 00:00

FRIDAY’s Super Rugby warm-up encounter between the Cell C Sharks and the Lions will be as close to the real thing as possible for coach Jake White.

White, who has 35 out of 36 players available to him ahead of the clash, said he would use the game as a dress rehearsal for their Super Rugby opener against the Vodacom Bulls at Growpoint Kings Park next weekend.

“What’s nice is that most of the guys are coming back from rehab and from long term injuries. Guys like SP Marais and Anton Bresler are ready to go. So it looks like all things being square. Ryan Kankowski also arrived today.

“As long as we get through this performance on Friday night, we could almost have 35 or our 36 players barring JP Pietersen ready for selection,” White said yesterday afternoon following their training session in the searing Durban heat.

The coach said the team he selects on Friday night will be the closest possible team that will run on in the opener against the Bulls a week later.

“It’ll be as close as it can get. I’m going to try and pick a team that I’d like to start against the Bulls and give them as much game time as I can in the first 40 or 50 minutes, and if I’ve seen what I’ve seen, then we’ll obviously just replace them and give other guys a run.”

Another positive for White ahead of their campaign opener was the return of the experienced Kankowski who adds to the Sharks’ already impressive pool of loose forwards that includes names like Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts, former skipper Keagan Daniel, Marcell Coetzee and Tera Mthembu.

Kankowski returned to his Japanese club Toyota Industries Shuttles last year following a bad run of form that resulted in his axing and reported falling out with then coach John Plumtree.

But, White was happy with having the Springbok back, describing him as a player with the X-factor.

“He’s a Springbok and he’s got something special about him. He’s really quick and he’s got a bit of X-factor as people would say. He’s really important to the way we want to play. He’s come back a bit later than I would have liked, but at least he’s here from the first week of the competition and it bodes well for us going forward,” White said of the 2008 South African Super Rugby player of the year.

To don the number eight jersey, Kankowski will have competition in the form of Alberts, Mthembu and Daniel.

“We’re lucky in that people talk about us having young locks, and we have. But we have an experienced front row and we also have an experienced back row with Marcel, Willem and Jean Deysel. So, for me it’s not about who plays individual positions, it’s about how that combination turns out,” he said.

White also said the depth he had at the Sharks was another positive, adding it was where his Brumbies side came short in last year’s Super Rugby final against the Chiefs.

“When I was at the Brumbies, we lost the final to the Chiefs, and the one thing we didn’t have in the final was as much depth as the Chiefs.

“The Sharks have a really talented squad with some nice young boys, and there are also some guys like Jacques Botes who have been around and can fill in if you need them. The last game and this one are going to be used to see what kind of depth we have in the different positions,” he said.

Another player who trained with the Sharks yesterday was former Stormers flyer Tonderai Chavanga, and White was also happy about his presence.

“He can play centre, wing and fullback and there’s an opportunity for a guy like him to add value,” he said.

• lunga.biyela@witness.co.za

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