Steyn to lead the Sharks

2013-02-06 00:00

SPRINGBOK centre Frans Steyn will captain the Sharks in their pre-season friendly against the Leopards at Woodburn Stadium on Friday night.

Sharks coach John Plumtree made the surprise announcement yesterday when he named his squad for the first of two pre-season friendlies.

The second outing is against the Pumas in Nelspruit the following Friday (February 15), and the Sharks open their Super Rugby challenge against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on February 23.

Keegan Daniel is the Sharks’ captain for the season and Bismarck du Plessis acted as his deputy last year.

The Boks hooker will miss the first couple of months of the Super Rugby season following major knee surgery and, with Daniel playing off the bench on Friday, Steyn will be seen in a new role at Woodburn.

Plumtree said yesterday that he had been impressed with the change in attitude of Steyn who returned to Durban last year after playing for Racing Metro.

“I’ve seen a big difference with Frans in terms of his personality and character since he came back from France,” said the coach.

“The players have a lot of respect for him as an individual and as a player. He’s a very competitive person and he doesn’t like to come second in anything he does.”

Plumtree said Steyn would probably start for the Sharks in nearly every Super Rugby game “and that makes him a good back-up to Keegan”.

“It’s an opportunity for Frans to grow his leadership,” he said.

The burly Steyn — at 1,91 metres and 110 kg — is a formidable figure at inside centre. He is only 25 years of age, but has already played in 53 Tests and Plumtree obviously regards him as one of his most senior and influential players.

The Sharks coach said that the players needed contact after weeks of preparation and conditioning.

“The Leopards have always provided stiff opposition in the contact areas and that is what our players need.

“I hope there will be a good contest at the set-pieces and both sides will want to come and play but, really, it’s just a pre-season hit-out.”

He said he would take 24 players to Pietermaritzburg.

“Guys who get less game-time on Friday, could get more the week after in Nelspruit. There is some really good competition in the squad and you can see that with the team named and the guys on the bench,” he said.

“It’s exactly what we want. We’ve had a good pre-season and now they can get excited about a trial.”

Plumtree said the Currie Cup competition, following on Super Rugby, allowed coaches to develop outstanding young players. “We’ve got a couple of those boys who are on their way up and I hope they will take that next step in Super Rugby,” he said.

Plumtree has mixed and matched for the Woodburn game while allowing a number of Springboks who toured the UK in November another week’s rest. Among those not in the 24-man squad are Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Jannie du Plessis and JP Pietersen.

Prop Beast Mtawarira, who returned home early from the UK with a heart condition, has been included on a powerful bench. New signing from the Lions, lock Franco van der Merwe, will join the talented Pieter-Steph du Toit in the second row.

Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie partners Charl McLeod at scrumhalf.

Plumtree said Boks number eight Ryan Kankwoski, who has been playing in Japan for the past six months, will be back in Durban on Friday.

“We’ll check on his conditioning and he should be in good nick and we are hoping that we can use him straight away [in Nelspruit].”

SHARKS TEAM FOR WOODBURN

15.Riaan Viljoen, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Tim Whitehead, 12. Frans Steyn (captain), 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Pat Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Lubabalo Mtembu, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2,. Kyle Cooper, 1. Allan Dell.

Replacements: 16.Craig Burden, 17.Tendai Mtawarira, 18. Jandre Marais, 19.Anton Bresler, 20.Keegan Daniel, 21.Cobus Reinach, 22.Meyer Bosman, 23.Paul Jordaan, 24.Louis Ludik.

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