John Smit stays at loosehead to pack down against Hurricanes heavies

2010-03-26 00:00

JOHN Smit, who made his name as a hooker before being switched to tighthead prop, is now suddenly the Sharks’ first-choice loosehead.

The itinerant Sharks and Springbok captain was yesterday named as loosehead prop to face the huge Hurricanes pack in tomorrow’s Super 14 game at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington. Beast Mtawarira, the Springboks’ regular loosehead, has been included on the bench.

Smit, who was to have been rested last week against the Highlanders, took over on the loosehead when the Beast fell ill before the game. While the Sharks scrum was occasionally wheeled, Smit appeared far more comfortable in his new role than he was at tighthead, and John Plumtree has stayed with what is working.

Plumtree, with good reason, has identified the Hurricanes’ All Black front row as a major threat. Smit has the unenviable task of packing down opposite the 127 kg Test tighthead Neemia Tialata, who is the cornerstone of the All Black scrum. He has alongside him captain and All Black hooker Andrew Hore and the 119 kg loosehead John Schwalger.

“They have a very big scrum,” said Plumtree, by way of an understatement, and he has responded by including all his front-row heavies in the match, and named two props, Mtawarira and Wiehahn Herbst, on the bench.

Plumtree has kept as closely as possible to the starting line-up which started against the Highlanders, and the backline is unchanged. Englishman Andy Goode, a kicker rather than a runner, retains the flyhalf berth after a shaky first half in Dunedin. Obviously the windy, wet conditions in Wellington, and the Hurricanes’ problems under the high ball, influenced that selection.

There are two changes in the pack because of injury, with Alistair Hargreaves replacing lock Johann Muller and flank Jacques Botes coming in for Keegan Daniel, while Willem Alberts returns for Jean Deysel in a rotational switch in the back row.

Plumtree has returned to the traditional three-four on the bench with Odwa Ndungane joining Rory Kockott and Waylon Murray as the backline replacements, and lock Wilhelm Steenkamp and Deysel joining props Mtawarira and Herbst among the replacements. Smit will cover hooker, and the Sharks could well finish the game with a front row of Mtawarira, Smit and Herbst.

The Hurricanes have returned from South Africa with three losses and, in the words of Plumtree, “they are going to be a pretty desperate side”. They will also be slightly stronger than they were at Loftus, where they lost by one point to the Bulls last Saturday.

Skilful All Black Cory Jane returns at fullback, after suffering concussion against the Stormers, in the only change to the team which almost upset the Bulls. André Taylor switches to the left wing in place of Alapati Leiu.

All Black scrumhalf Piri Weepu remains on the bench, with Tyson Keats at scrumhalf, and there is no place in the 22 for Test flank Scott Waldrom.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15. Patrick Lambie, 14. Stefan Terblanche, 13. Adrian Jacobs, 12. Riaan Swanepoel, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Andy Goode, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. John Smit (capt).

Replacements: 16. Tendai Mtawarira, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Waylon Murray, 22. Odwa Ndungane.

Hurricanes: 15. Cory Jane, 14. Tamati Ellison, 13. Conrad Smith, 12. Ma’a Nonu, 11. André Taylor, 10. Willie Ripia, 9. Tyson Keats, 8. Rodney So’oialo, 7. Karl Lowe, 6. Victor Vito, 5. Michael Paterson, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 3. Neemia Tialata, 2. Andrew Hore (c), 1. John Schwalger.

Replacements: 16 Dane Coles, 17 Jacob Ellison, 18 Bryn Evans, 19 Nick Crosswell, 20 Piri Weepu, 21 Aaron Cruden, 22 David Smith.

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