Saracens’ Shark tale

2014-01-11 00:00

WHILE new coach Jake White is remaining mum on which players will travel to the UK on January 25 for their pre-season Super Rugby friendly against Saracens, their London hosts have gaily gone about releasing what they believe will be the Sharks squad for the outing at Allianz Park.

Saracens, clearly looking to boost the crowd for the game, have boldly stated that 13 Springboks have been included in the Sharks squad for the London trip.

In the best tradition of not allowing the facts to interfere with a good story, they have included Sharks centre Paul Jordaan, who is still likely to be sidelined for months rather than weeks following major knee surgery. Also named is Ryan Kankowski, the number eight only expected to return from his club in Japan — along with Springbok wing JP Pietersen — early next month. And excluded, for some reason, were Keegan Daniel, Pat Lambie and Tim White­head.

The fictitious squad was released on Thursday night and published by several newspapers and websites.

A spokesperson for the Sharks said yesterday that the squad named by Saracens “is certainly not the official one” and it would be a major surprise if White fielded nearly all his current Springboks so soon after they had returned to full training.

“The squad will be released through the usual official sources when it is named by Jake,” he said.

Still, Saracens have claimed that Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis will play in London in the match between the current Premiership leaders and the Currie Cup champions.

“It’s a special challenge for us,” Du Plessis apparently told Saracens. “Saracens have developed into a really strong team, and their recent success has been keenly followed in South Africa.

“They will present very tough opposition as we prepare for Super Rugby, and we’re excited to play on the artificial turf pitch at Allianz Park.”

What we do know is that Jake White has almost the entire Currie Cup-winning squad available for the Super Rugby opener against the Bulls in Durban on February 15, but he will have to make a change at fullback and name a new midfield pairing.

Fullback SP Marais is recovering from shoulder injury and will miss the opening rounds of Super Rugby while Louis Ludik, who played at outside centre in the Currie Cup final at Newlands, is now in France.

Big Springbok Frans Steyn has recovered from leg surgery and White has the option of switching him to fullback or he could look to either Odwa Ndungane or the talented Tim Swiel, the WP U21 flyhalf, to fill the last line of defence.

Steyn was a powerful presence at inside centre in the Currie Cup final and he could be joined by Tim Whitehead in the midfield. The emerging Heimar Williams, who performed admirably during the Currie Cup, will also be in contention while another young and strongly-built player, the 104-kg Andre Esterhuizen, is hoping to break into the senior squad.

The former Leopards player, who was just 19 when he joined the Academy in Durban last year, played for both the Sharks’ Vodacom Cup and U21 sides last year.

“I had a good season last year and it’s great to be training with the senior players now. It’s a good experience.

“I came to Durban because there is a good level of junior rugby and great structures which bring the younger players through,” he told the Sharks website.

“It’s great being able to learn from and play with the Springboks in the team, and although I’m a lot younger than them, and it has been hard work, they have made me feel very comfortable and have treated me as an equal.”

He said he was delighted to be involved in a squad coached by White.

“It’s a big honour to be trained by Jake White. There is just so much to learn from him and he’s a great coach.”

Esterhuizen realises that breaking into a quality Sharks squad will be difficult.

“I can only hope, but it’s going to take a lot of hard work, which I know I need to put it. I’m very excited for the year ahead.”



Lourens Adriaanse, Willem Alberts, Dale Chadwick, Marcell Coetzee, Kyle Cooper, Jean Deysel, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Andre Esterhuizen, Tyler Fisher, Paul Jordaan, Ryan Kankowski, Peet Marais, Charl McLeod, Tendai Mtawarira, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndugane, Etienne Oosthuizen, Jacobus Reinach, Francois Steyn, Timothy Swiel, Jaco van Tonder, Heimar Williams, Frederik Zeilinga.

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