New line-up of young Sharks set for a Bulls collider

2012-02-22 00:00

THERE is a decidedly fresh look to the Sharks backline for the Super Rugby opener against the Bulls in Pretoria on Friday night.

Coach John Plumtree broke with custom yesterday in naming his team well ahead of kick-off.

He produced an exciting backline with a host of players being used in new roles.

Two close season signings, fullback Riaan Viljoen and centre Tim White­head, are rushed into the starting line-up, Bok JP Pietersen is switched from wing to the midfield and Frenchman Frederic Michalak, who has played most of his rugby at flyhalf, has been selected at scrumhalf.

Plumtree has also settled the Pat Lambie speculation by confirming that the Springbok fullback will play at flyhalf for the Sharks.

The late injury to Odwa Ndungane has resulted in fullback Louis Ludik gaining selection on the wing.

Two regulars from last year, centre Meyer Bosman and scrumhalf Charl Mcleod, are on the bench.

The pack is more predictable with Dale Chadwick taking over from injured loosehead Beast Mtawarira, Anton Bresler is preferred to Ross Skeate in the second row and Marcell Coetzee fills the large hole left by Willem Alberts (and Jean Deysel) on the flank.

While there are many changes from last season, there are just two Super Rugby debutants in Chadwick and lively backline replacement Paul Jordaan. Whitehead and Viljoen, capped previously for the Stormers and Cheetahs respectively, will be winning their first caps for the Sharks.

Plumtree said the opening round would be the start of a new chapter in South African rugby.

“In Cape Town, Pretoria and here in Durban there is change, a new page in South African rugby in many ways. A lot of experienced players have left and we will see fresh young players given the opportunity to shine.

“That’s exciting for them, for the competition and for the spectators, who will see some faces they haven’t seen before.”

Plumtree said there had been a definite culture change at King’s Park.

“The players have been groomed by those who have left. The talk might be different, but the traditions are the same.”

He said there was a real enthusiasm and excitement in the camp.

“It comes to a point when all the work is done and the players are now looking forward to a game at the highest level. The mood at training is mirroring that and the boys are a bit grumpy. They now just want to get out there.”

The Sharks coach said the Bulls would, as usual, provide a massive physical challenge.

”They have some exciting backs and they have recruited well. I’m sure the Bulls will play with some width when they get an opportunity with quick ball. There will be lots of collisions around the rucks and we will have to look after their driving mauls.

“They will try to wear us out up front so we will have to be up for that.”

The match kicks off at 7.10 pm.

SHARKS TEAM

15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Louis Ludik, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Frederic Michalak, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee 6, Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Ross Skeate, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Paul Jordaan.

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