Jannie cleared to play

2013-10-25 00:00

SPRINGBOK tighthead Jannie du Plessis has been cleared to play, and the Sharks will field close to their strongest line-up in tomorrow’s Currie Cup final against Western Province in Cape Town.

Du Plessis, nursing a bone fracture in his left hand, an injury that kept him out of the Currie Cup semi-final against Free State, came through a scrummaging session yesterday and will return to the starting line-up in place of Wiehahn Herbst.

The Sharks — on paper, anyway — have become stronger with each passing day this week after initially contemplating a Currie Cup final without five Springbok forwards.

The injured Beast Mtawarira and Willem Alberts were declared fit for selection on Monday, Bismarck du Plessis was somehow cleared of stamping on Tuesday and yesterday big brother Jannie came through his fitness test.

Only flank Jean Deysel, who damaged a hamstring against Free State, was not considered for selection and he is replaced by Alberts, who has recovered from the neck injury that saw him stretchered from the field in the Ellis Park Test against the All Blacks earlier this month.

Mtawarira takes over from the luckless Dale Chadwick in the third change to the pack that started against Free State. Chadwick, who was in excellent form against the Cheetahs, drops out of the 22-man squad.

The Sharks will start with 12 players who have seen action for the Springboks — fullback SP Marais, centre Louis Ludik and lock Peet Marais are the exceptions — while four of the pack, the front-row and Alberts, started in the recent Test against the All Blacks.

Whether the returning Springboks are all fit and ready for a torrid final remains to be seen, but certainly the Sharks now have a pack potentially capable of mixing it with the Province forwards.

“Rugby is a physical sport and every week the collisions are important and winning those are going to be key to getting a victory on Saturday,” coach Brad Macleod-Henderson said yesterday.

“Province have quality, experienced forwards who have been winning a lot of good ball along with some electrifying backs out wide. We just need to make sure that physically we will be up for it and I have no doubt we will be.”

Province coach Allister Coetzee has refused to join Cape Town’s chorus of criticism that followed the not-guilty verdict on Bismarck du Plessis. He said that he was pleased both teams would be at close to full strength.

“I don’t have any comment to make on the judicial hearing. We want to play against a full-strength Sharks team so that it is a proper test of the strength of the two teams,” he said.

“You want to become the champions by beating the best, and we see this match as an opportunity to confront the challenge posed by a really great rugby team. This is what finals are about, the best against the best, and if you look at the number of Springboks in both sides you realise that this is the perfect final and a really special occasion.

“These are the best sides in the competition and it is a fitting final.”

Province captain Deon Fourie echoed his coach, adding that Bismarck du Plessis’ inclusion would strengthen the Sharks.

“He is a really great hooker and he boosts them in a number of areas,” Fourie told reporters in Cape Town.

“Finals tend to be a set piece dominated game, and his presence will have a positive effect on both their scrumming and the lineouts. But we played against their full-strength pack in Durban a few weeks ago and we did okay. So we are looking forward to the challenge and the chance to play for the title against a top-quality side.”

Teams

Western Province

15. Gio Aplon, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Jean de Villiers, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Demetri Catrakilis, 9. Louis Schreuder, 8. Duane Vermeulen, 7. Siya Kolisi, 6. Deon Fourie (captain), 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Eben Etzebeth, 3. Pat Cilliers, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: 16. Frans Malherbe, 17. Brok Harris, 18. Michael Rhodes, 19. Schalk Burger, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Juan de Jongh

Sharks

15. SP Marais, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Louis Ludik, 12. Francois Steyn, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (captain), 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4. Peet Marais, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Stephan Lewies, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Cobus Reinach, 21. Fred Zeilinga, 22. Heimar Williams.

Kick-off: 5.30 pm. Referee: Jonathan Kaplan.

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