JP Pietersen returns to squad

2009-04-16 00:00

FIVE players who missed the battle of Bloem have been included in the Sharks 22-man squad for tomorrow evening’s Super 14 crunch game against the champion Crusaders at King’s Park.

Head coach John Plumtree has refused to tamper unnecessarily with the squad following the heavy 31-6 loss to the Cheetahs last Saturday, but he has been boosted by the return from injury of JP Pietersen, Jean Dyesel and Waylon Murray, while two players who were late withdrawals for the Bloemfontein game, front-row forwards Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtwaraira, are also included in the squad of 22.

Pietersen has been out for a month with a calf muscle strain, and he has been named in the starting line-up although he is bracketed with Waylon Murray on the wing. Murray, the strongly-built utility back who has seen no action this year because of injury, will drop to the bench if, as expected, Pietersen is passed fit.

“It’s purely precautionary,” assistant coach Grant Bashord said last night of the selection.

“Both JP and Waylon practised well tonight and we just want to see how they feel in the morning.

We are confident that JP will start against the Crusaders with Waylon on the bench.”

Flank Jean Deysel, injured in the third round against the Chiefs in Hamilton, makes a welcome return and he will be used off the bench.

“Jean adds another dimension to the squad, but it is good to have these experienced players coming back at the business end of the Super 14,” said Bashford.

The backline coach said the players were looking forward to the game: “Playing a New Zealand side seems to lift the excitement levels in the squad and the players want to get back on the winning trail.”

The two changes to the pack see lock Steven Sykes back in place of Albert van den Berg, while Bismarck du Plessis starts at hooker. Springbok captain John Smit joins a reserve bench which is now far more potent, with the returning players boosting the depth in the squad.

The only player not considered because of injury is flyhalf Ruan Pienaar (knee ligament strain) and it is expected that he will return after the bye next weekend and for the match against the Highlanders on May 2.

“Ruan has been running this week and the bye next week will also help,” said Bashford.

“If all goes according to plan … we should be back at full strength after our bye,” he added.

Tomorrow’s game starts at 5.05 pm and will be refereed by South African Mark Lawrence.

Sharks team: 15. Stefan Terblanche 14. Odwa Ndungane 13. Adrian Jacobs 12. Riaan Swanepoel 11. JP Pietersen/Waylon Murray 10. Francois Steyn 9. Rory Kockott 8. Ryan Kankowski 7. Keegan Daniel 6. Jacques Botes 5. Johann Muller (Capt) 4. Steven Sykes 3. Jannie du Plessis 2. Bismarck du Plessis 1. Deon Carstens

Replacements: 16. John Smit 17. Tendai Mtawarira 18. Albert van den Berg 19. Jean Deysel 20. Charl McLeod 21. Monty Dumond 22. Luzuko Vulindlu/Waylon Murray.

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