Smit joins all-Test front-row

2009-10-09 00:00

SPRINGBOK captain John Smit will be back in the frontline for the Sharks’ final round Currie Cup match against Griquas in Kimberley tomorrow.

Head coach John Plumtree has made five changes to his starting line-up and Smit, who has been suffering from a neck injury, joins Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis in an all-Test front-row.

Plumtree has also rejigged his backline with one burly centre Riaan Swanepoel returning from injury to partner another burly centre, Adrian Jacobs, in a new midfield pairing.

With Johann Muller still sidelined, South African age group captain and lock Alistair Hargreaves takes over from Albert van den Berg, powerful young flank Michael Rhodes replaces the injured Jacques Botes and Smit dislodges Jannie du Plessis at tighthead.

The combative flank Jean Deysel and hooker Craig Burden, both making their way back from injury, join a powerful bench which includes international players Jannie du Plessis, Van den Berg and Waylon Murray. Rory Kockott again rotates with Charl McLeod as the scrumhalf replacement.

Plumtree said he was delighted to have his full set of backline players available for the game.

“All our backs were available for selection and we now have options. Of course, the guys have still got to go out and produce.”

The Sharks coach told The Witness that Smit, who has been sidelined for the past fortnight, had recovered well.

“He’s been feeling a lot better this week and he is ready to go. Jean Deysel has also just come through a fitness test and he and Jacques Botes should be ready next week (for the semi-finals). Johann Muller’s injury is now finally also showing signs of improvement and he may also feature next week.”

Plumtree said there were a number of reasons for the change at lock with the inclusion of Alistair Hargreaves, who was injured early in the Super 14, but has been playing off the bench in recent weeks.

“Alistair has worked hard to get back and deserves a chance to start. I’m also looking ahead to the Super 14 next year and really want to see how he goes. It is also a chance for Albert [van den Berg] to have a break before the play-offs, but we will use him to make an impact in the second half on Saturday.”

Plumtree said the squad had prepared well all week.

“But I’m looking for a real improvement across the park against Griquas.”

Meanwhile, Griquas coach Dawie Theron has included Maties captain Wesley Wilkins in his starting line-up for the match.Wilkins has taken over from flank Rohan Kitshoff in what team manager Human Kriek told reporters was a “tactical move.”

The only other change is on the bench where prop Drew van Coller is selected ahead of Andre Schlechter.

Griquas hooker Ryno Barnes said that the team were looking at a win (four points) rather than trying to chase down the two bonus points they need to beat off any challenge from Free State and qualify for the semi-finals.

”It will be more difficult to go for two points and so we are going all out for the win,” a confident Barnes said.

TEAMS: Sharks - 15 Stefan Terblanche (c), 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Juan Hernandez, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Michael Rhodes, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Alistair Hargreaves, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 John Smit, 2 Bismarck du Plessis,1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Rory Kockott, 21 Andries Strauss, 22 Waylon Murray.

Griquas – 15 Riaan Viljoen, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 Jaco Bekker, 12 Barry Geel, 11 Trompie Nontshinga, 10 Naas Olivier, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Jonathan Mokuena (c), 7 Davon Raubenheimer, 6 Wesley Wilkins, 5 Jacques Lombard, 4 Cecil Kemp, 3 Ruaan du Preez, 2 Ryno Barnes, 1 Albertus Buckle.

Replacements: 16 Dries Kruger, 17 Drew van Coller, 18 Brendon Snyman, 19 Rohan Kitshoff/Heinrich Stride, 20 Donald Stevens, 21 Wilmaure Louw, 22 Gavin Passens.

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