Muir sticks with the Cheetah-beaters as injuries sideline Steyn and Botha

2008-05-15 00:00

The Sharks will be without two key Springboks, centre Francois Steyn and tighthead prop BJ Botha, when they take on the Chiefs in tomorrow night’s vital Super 14 clash at Durban’s King’s Park.

Coach Dick Muir said last night that he cannot name a starting line-up because of the injury concerns but confirmed the double blow of losing both Steyn and Botha.

"We are also waiting on Johann Muller (the Sharks captain and lock) and hope he will be passed fit."

Steyn damaged a rib cartilage against the Cheetahs last Saturday while Botha suffered a calf strain. Brad Barritt will return in midfield for Steyn with Jannie du Plessis replacing fellow-Springbok Botha at tighthead and Deon Carstens joining the bench.

Muir said that Muller, who has battled with injury for the past few weeks, is still in doubt .

"We may only finalise our team just before the game. It’s not ideal but all the teams are in a similar position at this stage of the season with injuries having a real impact.

"But the players have prepared well and are excited about the weekend. There is still everything to play for and at least we are still very much in the running."

If Muller is passed fit, then he will partner Steven Sykes in the second row with Albert van den Berg on the bench. If Muller withdraws, the Sharks will field the same second-row that did duty against the Cheetahs (van den Berg and Johan Ackermann with Sykes on the bench) as Muir seeks the right second-row balance of a hard-driving scrummager and a lineout specialist.

For the rest, Muir will stay with the side which played against the Cheetahs.

Chiefs coach Ian Foster was in a similar position yesterday when he named his team but could not confirm whether two of their world-class gamebreakers, All Blacks Sitiveni Sivivatu and Sione Lauaki, would be fit to start.

Sivivatu, who is still recovering from an ankle injury, is bracketed with Viliame Waqaseduadua while number eight Lauaki, with a strained hamstring, will make way for either Hayden Hopgood and Faifili Levave.

Foster is still able to name a team crowded with skilful attacking players with All Blacks among those included for tomorrow night.

All Black fullback Mils Muliaina will start at centre with another former Test player, Sosene Anesi, at fullback.

Two other All Blacks, hooker Tom Willis and Jono Gibbes, who starts at lock, are included.

Scrumhalf Brendon Leonard, who flew to Durban in midweek, partners Stephen Donald at halfback.

Foster told the media yesterday his players are "determined to give it everything" this weekend in spite of the run of injuries.

"This tour has been very frustrating from an injury perspective, with this week being particularly hard for our medical staff. However, the team is getting more settled as the week goes on and we are certainly looking forward to this match.

"With seven wins already in this competition we know we can perform at the top level, but the amount of significant injuries has again been a concern. We take confidence from those past performances and are determined to give it everything this weekend."

Teams:

Sharks: Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Brad Barritt, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockott, Ryan Kankowski, AJ Venter, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (capt), Steven Sykes, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: Craig Burden, Deon Carstens, Albert van den Berg, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Waylon Murray and AN Other.

Chiefs:

Sosene Anesi, Lelia Masaga, Mils Muliaina (capt), Callum Bruce, Sitiveni Sivivatu/Viliame Waqaseduadua, Stephen Donald, Brendon Leonard, Sione Lauaki/Hayden Hopgood/Faifili Levave, Tanerau Latimer, Liam Messam, Kevin O’Neill, Jono Gibbes, Ben Castle, Tom Willis, Aled de Malmanche.

Replacements: John Paeranga, Nathan White, Toby Lynn, Sione Lauaki/Hayden Hopgood/Faifili Levave, Jamie Nutbrown, Dwayne Sweeney, Viliame Waqaseduadua/Murray Williams.

The match kicks off at 7.10 pm tomorrow.

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