Sharks big guns are back

2009-04-30 00:00

Springbok flyhalf Ruan Pienaar has dropped out of the starting line-up and will play off the bench against the Highlanders in the Super 14 match at King’s Park tomorrow

afternoon.

The good news is that he is on his way back and is certain to play in the second half when he will take over at flyhalf with Frans Steyn moving to inside centre.

The Sharks were also boosted yesterday by the sight of captain and lock Johann Muller, who has been nursing a knee injury, taking part in the practice and he will start against the Highlanders with Albert van den Berg returning to the replacement bench.

Pienaar, after being sidelined for seven weeks by injury, could have started the game, but Sharks coach John Plumtree has decided to ease him back into action after his extended break.

With Steyn taking over from Pienaar at flyhalf, Riaan Swanepoel moves to inside centre and, in the absence of the injured Adi Jacobs and Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss is promoted off the bench and will start at outside centre.

Highlanders’ coach Glenn Moore said yesterday he was looking for a strong finish to the team’s campaign as they start their overseas tour against the Sharks.

The Highlanders, beaten by the Stormers last Saturday, are currently 10th on table, eight points adrift of the fourth-placed Sharks.

“I think we’ve got to be quite clinical in how we play the game — we can’t afford to be turning over ball against them, and we’ve got to attack them,” Moore told NZPA.

“It’s never easy over here, but we desperately need to win this game … only a couple of weeks ago, the Crusaders had to do the same thing and they did, so it can be done.”

The Crusaders held on for a gritty 13-10 win over the Sharks in Durban two weeks ago, and the Highlanders are looking to emulate the defending champions’ effort, especially in set piece play and at the breakdown.

“We’re looking for improvement in our set piece for a start — we were pretty disappointed with that last week, as it had been a strength of ours all through the year,” Moore said of the Highlanders’ 11-18 loss to the Stormers at Carisbrook.

“We’ve had a lot of work go into that this week, and also we need to be a lot more clinical at the breakdown.”

Moore said the Sharks would be smarting from their losses to the Cheetahs and the Crusaders and he is expecting them to come out firing.

“They’ve got a good set piece, and their scrum particularly works really well. There are some good individuals in their loosies and their overall defence is very, very sound.”

Moore said he has not given up hope yet of a semi-final spot, and has targeted the Highlanders’ last three games of season as “must-win”.

“That’s what we need to do to stay alive. The table’s pretty congested, there’s not very much between 10 and one,” he said.

The Highlanders, with four wins to their credit going into this weekend’s game, have already improved on last year’s competition, when they finished 11th with just three wins.

“We haven’t focused too much on last year — we had a group of young guys we started with then, and we’ve got a number of new ones this year in their first year as well,” Moore said.

“I think we’re a better overall side than we were last year, and we’re not done yet.”

The match kicks off at 3 pm.

TEAMS

Sharks: Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Andries Strauss, Riaan Swanepoel, JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Rory Kockott, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (c), Steven Sykes, John Smit, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.

Reserves: Ruan Pienaar, Monty Dumond, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel, Albert van den Berg, Deon Carstens, Jannie du Plessis.

Highlanders: Israel Dagg, Ben Smith, Jason Shoemark, Daniel Bowden, Fetu’u Vainikolo, Mathew Berquist, Jimmy Cowan (c), George Naoupu/Steven Setephano, Alando Soakai, Adam Thomson, Tom Donnelly, Hayden Triggs, Clint Newland, David Hall, Jamie Mackintosh.

Reserves: Jason Rutledge, Anthony Perenise, Josh Bekhuis, Steven Setephano/Tim Boys, Sean Romans, Johnny Leota/Jayden Hayward, Kendrick Lynn.

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