Sharks make two changes

2009-03-11 00:00

THE Sharks have made two changes to last week’s match squad of 22 for Saturday’s crunch Super 14 match against the Reds in Brisbane, and both changes are injury-related.

While there has been a strong element of continuity enjoyed in team selection — a tribute to the excellent conditioning and pre-season programme — the Sharks do have one or two problems.

In a front row switch for this week’s match, John Smit returns to the starting line-up at tighthead and this will please the Springbok coaching staff who want their captain to see more game time at prop. Smit replaces Jannie du Plessis who shifts to the bench. Du Plessis went over on his ankle in the captain’s practice ahead of the Blues match last week, and although he managed to brave the first half on Saturday, he will play off the bench as a precautionary measure on Saturday.

The other change sees Albert van den Berg return to the playing squad for the first time this season following pre-season surgery. He fills the void created by the tour-ending injury sustained by Alistair Hargreaves in last week’s match. Hargreaves lasted just 12 minutes before he landed badly following a tackle.

Hargreaves has returned to South Africa and will be replaced on tour by Johan Snyman who has been playing with the Sharks XV in the Vodacom Cup after spending the pre-season with the Sharks’ Super 14 squad.

The backline remains unchanged for the fifth consecutive match which is perfect for continuity and building momentum.

The Sharks earned their first bonus point for scoring four or more tries against the Blues last weekend and there is no secret — they hope to pick up a full house of points again this weekend.

Reds’ coach Phil Mooney has admitted to being a fan of the Sharks’ brand of exciting rugby and with play-makers like Quade Cooper and Berrick Barnes in their backline, as well as some speedsters out wide, the match could — if the weather plays along — become an open contest.

“They’re a wonderful team, the Sharks,” Mooney admitted to The Australian , “and I’m an unabashed fan of the way they play the game and the way they rebuilt themselves after finishing last in 2005.”

The Sharks will be backing themselves in the physicality stakes with a hard-working pack of forwards, who will look to assert their dominance at the setpieces, and build a solid foundation from which to attack.

Kick-off is 11.05 am (SA time) on Saturday.

Sharks squad: 15. Stefan Terblanche, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Adrian Jacobs, 12. Francois Steyn, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Ruan Pienaar, 9. Rory Kockott, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Keegan Daniel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Johann Muller (capt), 4. Steven Sykes, 3. John Smit, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16. Deon Carstens, 17. Jannie du Plessis, 18. Albert van den Berg , 19. Skholiwe Ndlovu, 20. Ross Cronje , 21. Riaan Swanepoel , 22. Luzuko Vulindlu.

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