Sharks pose ‘huge test’ for Jake White

2013-03-15 00:00

KEEGAN Daniel has been rushed back to the frontlines and will captain the Sharks against the log-leading Brumbies in the big Super Rugby game at King’s Park tomorrow evening.

The return of Daniel, who saw only 12 minutes of action before damaging knee ligaments in the opening warm-up friendly against the Leopards in Pietermaritzburg on February 8, is one of three changes to the team that started against the Kings in Port Elizabeth at the weekend.

Coach John Plumtree, desperate to add some attacking spark to the backline, has included Charl McLeod at scrumhalf and Odwa Ndungane on the wing. They take over from the younger Cobus Reinach and Lwazi Mvovo who both drop to the bench.

Named among the replacements is flank Jacques Botes, who on Monday was expected to be sidelined for four weeks with a wrist fracture. “Jacques was initially diagnosed with a cracked wrist, but a later examination revealed that it was an old injury,” said Plumtree yesterday.

“It just shows that the older you get, the tougher you get. He’s alright and that’s good news for the team.”

The return of Daniel could not have been better timed for the Sharks as he takes over from the injured Jean Deysel.

Daniel, who has not played for five weeks, is short of game time, but Plumtree is confident the lively loose forward will meet the challenge, adding speed and creativity to the back row. The Sharks are certain to miss Deysel’s bulk in the close exchanges and on the gainline, but Daniel will add an attacking dimension in broken play.

The inclusion of McLeod, a committed player on both attack and defence, was expected and he will renew a partnership with flyhalf Pat Lambie that started in the succcessful Currie Cup campaign of 2010.

The selection on the wing was perhaps more difficult with former Springbok Ndungane, experienced, consistent and hard-working, preferred to the pace and exciting running of Mvovo.

“Charl hasn’t had an opportunity and he’s looking forward to this game,” said Plumtree. “I think it’s a good time to reintroduce him. He’ll be looking forward to a good game.

“It’s the same with Odwa. He hadn’t started a game yet, so we wanted to give him an opportunity at some point. It’s a big game this week.”

This is the first time in three weeks that Plumtree has changed his starting line-up, although the squad of 22 — apart from Daniel replacing the injured Deysel — remains the same.

“We’ve had some enforced changes and a couple of rotational changes amongst the backs,” said the Sharks coach.

“But we have a good squad and both those backs (McLeod and Ndunage) deserve a start. It’s up to them now to take the opportunity.”

Jake White also announced his Brumbies line-up yesterday and surprised with five changes to the team that dumped the Waratahs in Canberra at the weekend.

The 21-year-old Scott Sio will make his first start at loosehead prop at King’s Park, while veteran open-side flank George Smith (in place of the injured David Pocock), number eight Fotu Auelua, centre Tevita Kuridrani and Joe Tomane (wing) are also promoted to the starting side.

Sio’s inclusion has resulted in Test prop Ben Alexander moving to tighthead, his regular Wallaby position. Captain Ben Mowen switches from number eight to blind-side flank and Peter Kimlin to lock, while Scott Fardy and former Sharks wing Clyde Rathbone drop to the bench.

White said yesterday that the Sharks, the 2012 beaten finalists, posed “a huge test” for his side.

“Traditionally this has been one of the Brumbies biggest games of the season. To come away from Durban with four points is a huge challenge but one the team feels comfortable with,” White said. “ It’s nice to be back in Durban. I’ve always enjoyed my time here and hopefully things stay like that after Saturday night.”

The kick-off is at 5.05 pm.

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