Smit to make first Super Rugby season start tomorrow

2011-03-10 00:00

JOHN Smit, the Sharks’ roving front-rower, will make his first start of the Super Rugby season when he captains the team from the tighthead position against the Rebels in Melbourne tomorrow.

Smit was named at loosehead prop for the opening game against the Cheetahs, but was a late withdrawal with a calf strain and has played off the bench in the subsequent games against the Blues and the Force.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree has said that the versatile Springbok captain will be carefully managed in World Cup year and that he will be used in all three front-row positions, either in the starting line-up or off the bench.

Smit seems at his most comfortable at loosehead prop, but tomorrow he will take over at tighthead, a position he filled with mixed results against the 2009 British Lions, with Jannie du Plessis taking a break.

The only other change to the team named to start against the Force at the weekend is on the wing where the lively Lwazi Mvovo takes over from the injured JP Pietersen. Number eight Ryan Kankowski, who was ill on the eve of the Force and replaced by Jacques Botes, returns to the backrow.

There are two other changes on the bench with Jannie du Plessis covering prop while centre Adi Jacobs is included in place of Mvovo.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said yesterday that Pietersen underwent knee cartilage surgery on Tuesday.

“The news is positive,” Van Zyl told The Witness, “and he should be ready again in about four weeks.”

Van Zyl said that flank Jean Deysel, returning from an extended break following knee ligament surgery, is back at training.

“He will have a run for the Vodacom Cup side first, but I would say he is still a couple of weeks off returning to the Sharks.”

New Zealander Chris Pollock will referee the Melbourne game tomorrow (10.40 am SA time).

Meanwhile, the Sharks will be relieved that they will not have to contend with the Chiefs’ captain and All Black fullback Mils Muliaina the following weekend.

Muliaina (30) will miss at least four weeks of Super Rugby after a scan yesterday confirmed the fullback had sustained two fractures in his lower back. Muliaina came off the field early following a clash in the Chiefs’ win over the Melbourne Rebels at the weekend. The scan had shown he had fractured the “transverse processes of his first and second lumbar vertebrae”, the team said in a statement. “Transverse processes” are small bones on the side of the spine.

“We estimate that he will miss about four weeks of rugby,” the team’s doctor, Zig Khouri, said.

The Chiefs have managed only one win from their first three matches and face a tough outing in Wellington against the Hurricanes, who have had a two-week break following a bye and the cancellation of their match against the Crusaders.

 

Sharks team to play the Rebels

15. Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. John Smit (captain), 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden,17. Jannie du Plessis, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22. Adi Jacobs.

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