Sharks bring out the big guns

2008-09-25 00:00

A SIDE brimming with internationals — that’s what the Lions will face at Ellis Park in their Currie Cup clash against the Sharks tomorrow.

Sharks coach John Plumtree has welcomed back a host of Test-hardened stars into his starting line-up for this weekend’s match, among them Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Frederic Michalak, Albert van den Berg, Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira. The bench sees the return of Bok captain John Smit to the province for his first Currie Cup outing since 2005.

Recently, Plumtree suggested that Jean Deysel had “Springbok written all over him” and is one of the unluckier players not to be selected for the Springboks, along with fellow loose-forward Jacques Botes. The pair stand out as the only two in the Sharks starting line-up who have yet to play at international level.

Thirteen of the 15 players selected have represented their country at Test level. Frederic Michalak is the odd one out, having played for France, and with a further three Springboks on the bench, this Sharks side is something of a class act — although the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

It all depends on what happens on the day. The Sharks’ performance tomorrow will be a good indication of whether this side is capable of achieving what 11 Sharks’ Currie Cup sides have been unable to do since 1996, in what is shaping to be a possible fairy-tale ending to Plumtree’s first official campaign in the hot seat.

There should be no shortage of experience and leadership. The team boasts two Springbok captains in John Smit and Johann Muller, a triple Currie Cup winner in Jannie du Plessis and a host of rugby World Cup winning medallists.

The Sharks may have been off their best last week against the Valke, but against the top sides this season they have shown their mettle and an ability to raise themselves for the tough games, both mentally and physically. They did beat the Lions narrowly in the first round match at home, but tomorrow they face a side that has everything to play for — including a fight to stay in contention for the play-offs.

For the Lions, an unforeseen hiccup has seen coach Eugene Eloff forced to prematurely reintroduce Jaque Fourie back into the starting line-up, despite the Springbok having limited game time and currently not up to match fitness. This follows the loss of fellow Bok Jaco Pretorius to a broken hand sustained in last week’s match against Boland.

The Lions have managed to retain continuity in team selection, which stands them in good stead for this match.

The Lions have a very hard-working and effective forward pack, and it is in the backs where the Sharks will aim to dominate.

Teams

Lions: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. Michael Killian, 13. Jaque Fourie, 12. Doppies la Grange, 11. Trompie Nontshinga, 10. Earl Rose, 9. Jano Vermaak, 8. Ernst Joubert, 7. Derick Minnie, 6. Cobus Grobbelaar (captain), 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Anton van Zyl, 3. Ross Geldenhuys, 2. Willie Wepener, 1. Heinke van der Merwe. Replacements: 16. Ethienne Reynecke, 17. Lawrence Sephaka, 18. Jannes Labuschagne, 19. Justin Wheeler, 20. Chris Jonck, 21. Louis Strydom, 22. Rayno Benjamin.

Sharks: 15. Stefan Terblanche, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Adrian Jacobs, 12. Francois Steyn, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Frederic Michalak, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Johann Muller (captain), 4. Albert van den Berg, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16. John Smit, 17. Deon Carstens, 18. Steven Sykes, 19. Keegan Daniel, 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Bradley Barritt, 22. Waylon Murray.

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