Sharks ride the wave

2015-02-13 00:00

THE Sharks have named a relatively ­unchanged side from the starting XV that took on French club Toulon last week for their upcoming Super Rugby opener against the Cheetahs.

The only change to the side who ran out last Thursday sees tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis replacing Matt Stevens, who moves onto the bench.

A number of players who joined the squad at the end of the year feature in the match-day 22, but a few exciting prospects stand out.

In the backline, Waylon Murray starts at outside centre — marking his official return in the black and white jersey after four years plying his trade around the country.

Many will wait with bated breath ­considering Murray hasn’t had a proper chance to show his form. The hit out against Toulon saw the Sharks backline starved for the ball and the conditions didn’t encourage running rugby.

But director of rugby Gary Gold has backed Murray’s wealth of experience while conceding that S’bura Sithole, who will start on the wing, could also feature at centre this year.

“This particular week we feel that Waylon’s experience and the way he’s trained in preseason has been good. He’s been a little bit of a revelation. He came in on a trial and we had no predetermined decision whether he was going to stay or not. He trained well, he’s got a cool, calm head and lots of experience and we wanted to give them both an opportunity on the field,” Gold said.

He is also hoping Springbok halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie will ­unleash the outside backs — highlighting their decision making as major strengths. They face a stern test though, as Sarel Pretorius and former Western Province flyhalf Joe Pietersen have plenty of Super Rugby experience.

Upfront, the Sharks have gone with an exciting, youthful back row that features the hard hitting Marcell Coetzee and ­Renaldo Bothma on either side of the scrum, while the rangy Tera Mtembu starts at eighthman — just reward for a stellar Currie Cup last year.

Both Coetzee and Bothma were industrious at the collision point last week and maintaining continuity after such a positive performance was a relatively easy decision for Gold and his coaching staff.

“If you’re going to use the starting XV against Toulon and they’re successful in that situation, it’s pretty much to keep that continuity going. It was pretty good XV, we thought the balance was good and if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”

While the second half scrumming against Toulon was somewhat worrying, the Sharks put in some extra work this week in anticipation of the expected Cheetahs forward onslaught.

Gold also said the pre-made plan to give all 26 players game time last week made it difficult to keep momentum. Coupled with a yellow card, the Sharks had a makeshift scrum that was tested in the second stanza.

Bismarck du Plessis will captain the Sharks tomorrow and emphasised his side’s promise to lift their intensity this year. They will need to do just that against a side who always fights to the end.

“In every game of Super Rugby, anybody can beat anybody. The Cheetahs were really good in scrums in their preseason games and I think they are driving really well from their front and back ball off the lineouts and we’ve worked hard to stop that,” Du Plessis said.

“They’ve got exciting backs. They’re always very flashy with their moves and if you think back to last year — there were some amazing tries from the likes of ­Cornal Hendricks and Willie le Roux.”

Looking ahead of this weekend’s clash, Gold was able to shed some light on the availability of his walking wounded as well as his Japan-based players.

Ryan Kankowski is expected back in Durban next week, while Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen will be away for another two weeks as they are involved in playoff matches with their respective clubs.

Willem Alberts has been given an undetermined amount of time to recover from a hamstring injury, but Gold was confident he would be available for selection in the next three to four weeks, as will locks JC Astle and Stephan Lewies.

Tomorrow’s kickoff is at 5.05 pm at King’s Park.

Sharks team: SP Marais, S’bura Sithole, Waylon Murray, Heimar Williams, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Tera Mtembu, Renaldo Bothma, Marcell Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Mouritz Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Matt Stevens, Marco Wentzel, Jean Deysel, Conrad Hoffmann, Fred Zeilinga, Odwa Ndungane.

Cheetahs: Willie le Roux, Clayton Blommetjies, Francois Venter, Michael van der Spuy, Raymond Rhule, Joe Pietersen, Sarel Pretorius, Willie Britz, Oupa Mohoje, Jean Cook, Francois Uys (c), Lodewyk de Jager, Coenie Oosthuizen, Torsten van Jaarsveld, Danie Minnie.

Replacements: Stephan Coetzee, BG Uys, Maks van Dyk, Carl Wegner, Boom Prinsloo, Tian Meyer, Willie du Plessis, Cornal Hendricks.

Super Rugby fixtures today

Crusaders v Rebels, 8.35 am

Brumbies v Reds, 10.40 am

Lions v Hurricanes, 7.10 pm

Tomorrow

Blues v Chiefs, 8.35 am

Sharks v Cheetahs, 5.05 pm

Bulls v Stormers, 7.10 pm

Sunday

Waratahs v Force, 7.05 pm.

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