Kockott to scrumhalf, Pienaar to flyhalf as Sharks plan to test Stormers

2010-05-07 00:00

WITH the Super 14 race already run, Sharks coach John Plumtree has returned Rory Kockott to scrumhalf for tomorrow night’s Super 14 outing against the Stormers at King’s Park.

Plumtree has made five changes — two of which are positional — to the team that went down by eight points to the log-leading Bulls at Loftus Versfeld last week.

The most significant is at halfback with Ruan Pienaar moving from scrumhalf back to flyhalf in place of Englishman Andy Goode, who drops to the bench. Kockott has been promoted from the bench, while injured lock Johann Muller has been replaced by Alistair Hargreaves.

Plumtree has also rejigged his back row with Willem Alberts moving to flank and Ryan Kankowski, who is over his broken thumb, starting at number eight. Plumtree told the Witness yesterday that not too much should be read into the Pienaar move back to flyhalf, which is where Springbok coach Peter de Villiers wants him to play his rugby.

The Sharks coach has this season remained true to his commitment to play Pienaar in his favoured position at scrumhalf, even when he was desperate for a quality flyhalf after losing Juan Hernandez and Steve Meyer on the eve of the tournament.

The switch this weekend is aimed at giving scrumhalf Kockott an opportunity to start after a long season on the bench rather than because he wants to see Pienaar running at flyhalf. “Rory deserves a chance. He came on in the last quarter against both the Blues and the Bulls and did very well. I want to see how he goes at scrumhalf as we look to the Currie Cup season ahead [and when Pienaar is certain to be on Springbok duty].”

Plumtree said Pienaar’s selection at flyhalf was not because of Springbok considerations.

“I happen to think that Ruan is better at scrumhalf than at flyhalf, and Ruan thinks so too. But that doesn’t mean he cannot cover both positions, even for the Springboks. That’s what makes him such a special player.”

Plumtree said he was spoilt for choice in the back row but he is keen to see how Kankowski, Jean Deysel and Alberts, three big, ball-carrying forwards, gel as a loose trio.

He has included his two mobile flanks, Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel, on the bench and they will see action in the second half when play becomes more open.

“Jacques has been outstanding this season and Keegan was also playing well when he was injured, but this is a chance to see how a new combination operates.”

John Smit is over his neck injury scare and will captain the team from hooker in an unchanged front row.

Plumtree has opted for a 5:2 split on the bench with Sharks XV captain and prop Patric Cilliers and hooker Craig Burden covering the front row and Wilhelm Steenkamp back as the second-row replacement.

Goode and Andries Strauss are the backline substitutes.

The Sharks are missing four Springboks in wing JP Pietersen, centre Adi Jacobs, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and lock Muller but they still have a bruising pack of forwards and a threatening halfback combination.

The Stormers will be tested.

Sharks team:

15 Patrick Lambie, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Ruan Pienaar, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Jean Deysel, , 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Jacques Botes 21 Andy Goode, 22 Andries Strauss.

Kick-off: 7.10pm

Referee: Stu Dickinson (Australia).

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