A week from hell

2015-03-27 00:00

SHARKS director of rugby Gary Gold yesterday said this week served up “some of the biggest off-field challenges we’ve experienced for a long while”, as his team make final preparations for their clash against the Force this weekend.

With regular captain Bismarck du Plessis banned for four weeks and Springboks Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach and Marcell Coetzee all being rested, the Sharks were already stretched thin by the number of changes they had to make to their regular team.

But Sanzar made matters worse on Wednesday by appealing their decision to clear Frans Steyn’s red card at the beginning of the week.

The appeal was set to take place today — but it seems sanity has prevailed and the meeting was postponed until next Tuesday.

Steyn had been found not guilty in the original hearing on Monday, but Sanzar had a change of heart and appealed the decision.

According to a Sanzar press release yesterday, not all parties were available to attend the hearing and it was rescheduled.

Gold and his coaching staff had already decided to name Steyn at flyhalf in the starting XV after the Springbok had practised there all week and the gamble has now paid off.

With the appeal only taking place next week, Steyn is now available to play tomorrow and will run the show at flyhalf while Fred Zeilinga provides cover off the bench.

The original uncertainty around Steyn’s availability also left a selection poser as to who should lead the team out tomorrow afternoon. Three of four players named in the leadership group are out this week (Tera Mtembu, Lambie and Du Plessis), and Steyn was the only one left.

But out of the blue, Jean Deysel was elevated into the starting XV in place of Coetzee and he was handed the captaincy this weekend.

It came as a surprise to many, as Deysel had not been seen at training this week. But according to Gold, the Springbok flank has been working hard behind the scenes and proved to be the answer to their leadership headache — with Steyn’s rough week ruling him out as a choice for the time being.

“It was an interesting debate. If Jean wasn’t right, Marco Wentzel would have captained the team. Ryan was a strong consideration and Frans was as well. The situation with Fransie, and he is in the leadership group so he is one of our leaders in any case, is he will be calling the plays. Obviously with what’s been going on, to burden the poor guy with captaincy at this moment in time would have been senseless,” Gold said.

Deysel’s rehabilitation from a small ankle operation went on behind closed doors. The burly flank spent his time doing conditioning programmes in the gym and in the pool and Gold said he had been managed strategically.

“Putting him out on the field and getting him to run was quite senseless, we wanted to put him through a much tougher regime and he’s come through really well. He had a full day’s training on Thursday [yesterday] and did really well. He knows the moves and he’s captained the team before so he fitted back in like a hand in a glove,” Gold said.

Despite the numerous complications this week, the Sharks did not have to tinker too much with the line-up. Both Springbok props Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis are fit and starting with Kyle Cooper, who was industrious after Bismarck was red-carded last week, slots in at hooker.

Mouritz Botha and Marco Wentzel make up a very experienced and mobile second row. Renaldo Bothma will have license to play towards the ball as he shifts to openside flank, while Deysel and Kankowski make up the rest of the loose trio.

Conrad Hoffmann earns his first start at scrumhalf while the exciting Stefan Ungerer provides cover off the bench.

Hard-running centre André Esterhuizen will also get his first start at inside centre and has plenty of experience around him in JP Pietersen and Steyn. The Sharks back three remain unchanged from last week.

“We have a great squad, lots of guys who spent a long time in pre-season here and I have a lot of confidence in them. I’m excited about this, resting the guys means we have the opportunity to see some of our younger guys coming through, and some of the not so younger guys too,” Gold joked, referring to the 35-year-old Wentzel, who sat in on yesterday’s press conference.

The Sharks host the Force at King’s Park tomorrow afternoon. Kickoff is at 5.05 pm.

Sharks team (15-1): SP Marais, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Francois Steyn, Conrad Hoffmann, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel (c), Renaldo Bothma, Marco Wentzel, Mouritz Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: Monde Hadebe, Thomas du Toit, Lourens Adriaanse, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Daniel du Preez, Stefan Ungerer, Fred Zeilinga, Waylon Murray.

Force team (15-1): Luke Morahan, Marcel Brache, Kyle Godwin, Luke Burton, Nick Cummins, Sias Ebersohn, Alby Mathewson, Ben McCalman, Kane Koteka, Steve Mafi, Adam Coleman, Sam Wykes (c), Tetera Faulkner, Nathan Charles, Pekahou Cowan.

Replacements: Heath Tessmann, Chris Heiberg, Oli Hoskins, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Angus Cottrell, Ian Prior, Zack Holmes, Dane Haylett-Petty.


Today: Hurricanes vs Rebels - 8.35 am. Reds vs Lions - 11 am

Saturday: Chiefs vs Cheetahs - 5.30 am.

Highlanders vs Stormers - 8.35 am. Waratahs vs Blues - 10.40 am. Sharks vs Force - 5.05 pm.

Bulls vs Crusaders - 7.10 pm.

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