Van der Merwe to play for Sharks

2012-10-04 00:00

THERE was good news for the Sharks on two fronts yesterday when it was confirmed that leading South African lock Franco van der Merwe will join their Super Rugby squad next year, while Springbok wing JP Pietersen is back in their Currie Cup team for Saturday.

With the Lions relegated from Super Rugby next year, three of their players have moved to other franchises.

The 29-year-old Van der Merwe, who has played 75 Super Rugby games for the Lions, is to move to Durban on loan, while two products of Michaelhouse, former Sharks Pat Cilliers and Michael Rhodes, have signed permanent contracts with Western Province.

Brian van Zyl, the Sharks CEO, confirmed yesterday that the two-metre tall Van der Merwe would play his Super Rugby in Durban next year and would boost the second-row depth.

“We released Ross Skeate and Alistair Hargreaves earlier this year and Steven Sykes is leaving us to join the Southern Kings next year.

“We have some exciting young talent at lock [Anton Bresler, the Marais brothers, Jandre and Peet, and Pieter-Steph du Toit], but Van der Merwe will add experience.”

Van Zyl said that discussions were continuing with two other Lions Springboks, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and centre/fullback Jaco Taute.

But the focus of the Sharks is currently on the Currie Cup and their game against Free State in Bloemfontein on Saturday night.

Coach John Plumtree has made a number of interesting selections and the most significant is on the wing where Pietersen, who has recovered from his broken thumb, returns. Plumtree was forced to rejig his backline against the Blue Bulls last Friday because of the rain and he has returned to the backline he initially selected for that outing, with Meyer Bosman at flyhalf and Paul Jordaan partnering Tim Whitehead in midfield.

Pietersen’s inclusion has resulted in the in-form Louis Ludik returning to fullback, while Riaan Viljoen drops to the bench.

Plumtree has also rotated his scrumhalves with Cobus Reinach, the man-of-the-match against the Bulls, named on the bench and Charl McLeod starting after a couple of weeks’ break.

In the only change to the pack, Jandre Marais takes over at lock from the injured Steve Sykes, while hooker Pieter Dixon, who was cleared by the SA Rugby Union disciplinary hearing after receiving a red card against the Bulls, retains his place.

The Cheetahs took a hefty blow yesterday when their Springbok flank Heinrich Brüssow was ruled out of rugby for six months with a shoulder injury. Brüssow, who has battled a knee injury for months, suffered the injury against Griquas last weekend and Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské said the flank will undergo surgery and will be out of rugby until March.

Drotské has named regular lock Francois Uys as Brüssow’s replacement, while young Carl Wegner is promoted to the second row.

“It’s a difficult time with all the injured players and now Heinrich’s absence comes as another shock,” Drotské said yesterday.

In a positional switch, the talented Raymond Rhule is moved from centre back to wing, with former Sharks centre Andries Strauss returning in the midfield.

TEAMS

Sharks: Louis Ludik, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Tim Whitehead, JP Pietersen, Meyer Bosman, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel (c), Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Anton Bresler, Jandre Marais, Wiehahn Herbst, Pieter Dixon, Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: To be confirmed.

Cheetahs: Hennie Daniller, Nico Scheepers, Robert Ebersohn (captain), Andries Strauss, Raymond Rhule, Sias Ebersohn, Sarel Pretorius, Philip van der Walt, Francois Uys, Lappies Labuschagne, Izak van der Westhuizen, Carl Wegner, Ross Geldenhuys, Hercu Liebenberg, Marcel van der Merwe.

Replacements: AJ le Roux, Brummer Badenhorst, Waltie Vermeulen, Davon Raubenheimer, Tewis de Bruyn, Philip Snyman, Rayno Benjamin.

Kick-off: 7.10 pm.

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