Unchanged Sharks side expected for Stormers tie

2013-02-26 00:00

WHILE the Stormers are mulling over making key changes to their starting line-up, the Sharks could name an unchanged team for Saturday night’s crunch Super Rugby derby at King’s Park.

The Stormers have spent the weekend assessing their poor showing at Loftus on Friday night when they went down 25-17 to the Bulls.

The off-shoot could be the recall of former Bok Peter Grant at flyhalf in place of Elton Jantjies while Springbok centre Juan de Jongh, over his hamstring strain, is expected to take over from Damian de Allende in midfield.

Jantjies played no pre-season rugby following the sudden death of his father and he was clearly rusty. Whether coach Allister Coetzee is rushed into immediate change remains to be seen, but Grant is back in Cape Town following his annual stint in Japan and is an obvious option.

The Sharks, according to assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards, are in good shape, but relieved to come away from Bloemfontein with the win (29-22) after fading in the second half against the Cheetahs.

“The good thing is that everyone that was available last week is available again,” he said yesterday.

The Sharks are expecting the most physical of contests on Saturday night and they may opt to include the powerful Jean Deysel in the backrow though Ryan Kankowski, Marcell Coetzee and Jacques Botes were all effective against the Cheetahs.

“We knew it is always going to be difficult against the Cheetahs after they beat the Stormers up there [in a pre-season friendly].

“Altitude always plays its part and the guys certainly felt it. There was that period of about eight minutes when the Cheetahs ran at us and put us under the cosh.

“Even a guy like [lock] Franco van der Merwe, who has come from Johannesburg to Durban and then went back to altitude, said he found it difficult and realises what it takes to travel up-country and win.”

He agreed with head coach John Plumtree that easy pre-season games at night was not the right preparation for a tough Super Rugby opener on a hot Bloemfontein afternoon.

The Sharks, he said, could now not afford to drop points on Saturday.

“Our forwards really stepped up in Bloem, but Saturday is a brand new contest. The Stormers struggled against the Bulls in their setpieces so they will look to rectify that …”

The Stormers’ coaching staff and captain Jean de Villiers were highly critical of the team’s display in Pretoria. “It was very disappointing and there are no excuses,” Coetzee told reporters. The first half was an embarrassment and I have not seen a performance like this from a Stormers team for a long time.”

De Villiers agreed and said the players were flat and gave away silly penalties.

“We need to take a long hard look at ourselves and become a team again.”

Stormers fullback Jaco Taute is expected to miss the King’s Park game after suffering a groin injury while prop Pat Cilliers, who left the field against the Bulls after sustaining a knock to the head, should be available.

Saturday’s kick-off is at 7.10 pm.

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