Sharks prove depth

2014-03-17 00:00

THE Sharks passed the testing of their depth with flying colours when they took on and beat the Queensland Reds at King’s Park Stadium on Saturday evening.

Those who have been doubting the Sharks’ credentials as Super Rugby title contenders were given a firm answer when they produced a solid performance to get one over the 2011 champions.

The replacements, S’bura Sithole, JP Pietersen and Stephan Lewies were impressive. The returning Pat Lambie was impressive. Frans Steyn was impressive and coach Jake White was happy with how his charges performed on the night.

“I thought S’bura was good. It’s a very tough day for him to defend when you’ve got [Quade] Cooper, who can throw 30 metre passes, he can take it to the line, he can play inside, and the decoy plays that they run are some of the best in the competition,” White said in a press conference following the game.

“He was going to make mistakes … I’m happy, he’ll get a lot of confidence out of that performance,” he said.

The spotlight was also on 22-year-old Lewies who started the game in the place of the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit.

The youngster managed to hold his own against one of the best locks in world rugby in the form of Reds — and Australian — captain James Horwill.

Lewies, a player rated highly by White, will get an extended run in the team following the news that fellow youngster Du Toit has been ruled out of action for the rest of the year.

“It was a tough ask [on Lewies]. You’ve got Pieter-Steph out on the Thursday and we’d been preparing the whole week and he calls the lineouts. Stephan Lewies comes in and he plays against a Wallabies tight five

“Both those locks [Horwill and Rob Simmons] are the form locks for Australia and they’ve played [a lot] of Test matches for Australia. For him to come in and have to call and run the lineout, I think it’s a great positive for us going forward,” said White.

The World Cup-winning coach described the loss of Du Toit as massive, calling the 21-year-old two-metre tall lock as one of the best rugby players in the world.

“He had a whole year ahead of him, and I thought the way he developed in the first couple of games he had presence in our team.”

Pietersen, who only returned to Durban on Tuesday following the end of the season in Japan was drafted into the starting XV after regular number 14 Odwa Ndungane was given compassionate leave following a family bereavement.

Speaking of Pietersen’s game, White said: “It’s incredible for a guy to come back from overseas, lands here on Tuesday, gets his kit on Wednesday, and he’s played 99 games of Super Rugby.”

Should Pietersen be given the nod for next week’s game against the Bulls in Pretoria, it will be his 100th Super Rugby game.

After a run of four wins from four games at home, the Sharks head to the capital next week to take on the three times Super Rugby champions as they look to cement their position at the top of the South African conference and overall log.

White’s men are ahead by five points of the second placed Chiefs in the overall log, although the reigning Super Rugby champions have played a game less.

The gap between the Sharks and the second placed Lions in the South African section is six points, and having played a game less, the more they look like favourites for the conference and the title.

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