Game favours Sharks

2014-02-07 00:00

THE Sharks should come out of this evening’s Super Rugby warm-up game against the Lions at Ellis Park with a convincing­ win judging by the team Johan­ Ackermann announced to face Jake White’s juggernaut.

White made his intentions clear when he named his side on Wednesday, and that was to give his first-choice starting XV a decent run ahead of the Super Rugby­ opener against the Bulls at the Shark Tank on Saturday next week. He does, of course, have a full complement of players to pick from, with only JP Pietersen­ unavailable­ due to club commitments in Japan.­

Ackermann is not as fortunate. Having had his hand forced, the former Springbok­ enforcer made changes all around the park after they were run close by the Kings in Port Elizabeth last week, a game in which they lost fullback Andries Coetzee­ and lock Rudi Mathee to injury.

Unfortunately for the men from Johannesburg,­ both injuries look to be long-term, with Coetzee being out for six weeks, and Mathee ruled out for eight.

To prevent further injuries, Ackermann has opted to rest his senior players, including Springbok Franco van der Merwe,­ who spent last season at the Sharks.

“It is important for us to avoid further injuries so we have decided to rest some of our players,” Ackermann is quoted on the Lions’ website. “However, I also believe Friday’s game will give some of our young players an opportunity to express themselves and gain some valuable experience. It will be a chance for them to put their hands up for the future.”

The Lions will be captained by experienced centre Alwyn Hollenbach, and former Blue Bull Bees Roux will start at tighthead prop while players like Lionel Mapoe, Michael Bondesio, Jaco Kriel and Schalk van der Merwe are rested.

White, on the other hand, picked a side to show his intention, which is to hit the ground running. And, with the depth the Sharks currently have at their disposal, they easily rank as South Africa’s best hope of lifting the Super Rugby crown this year. The Lions’ front row of Jacques van Rooyen, Willie Wepener and Bees Roux will struggle against the Sharks’ allSpringbok three of Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira­ and the brothers Du Plessis.

Player for player, the Sharks outmatch the Lions in every department, and conventional­ wisdom says a big win for Jake White’s men is in the offing.

But then again, stranger things have happened in rugby.

Sharks: 15. SP Marais, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Frans Steyn, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Pat Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach, 8. Tera Mtembu, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira Substitutes: 16. Monde Hadebe, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Stephan Lewies, 20. Jacques Botes, 21. Ryan Kankowski, 22. Charl McLeod, 23. Fred Zeilinga, 24. Heimar Williams, 25. S’bura Sithole, 26. Jaco van Tonder

Lions: 15. Coenie van Wyk, 14. Deon van Rensburg , 13. Stokkies Hanekom , 12. Alwyn Hollenbach (captain), 11. Chrysander Botha , 10. Wilie du Plessis, 9. Faf de Klerk, 8. Willie Britz, 7. Ruaan Lerm, 6. Warwick Tecklenburg, 5. Martin Muller, 4. Lourens Erasmus, 3. Bees Roux, 2. Willie Wepener, 1. Jacques van Rooyen Substitutes: 16. Malcolm Marx, 17.Charles Marais, 18. Corne Fourie, 19. Stephan Vermeulen, 20. Hugo Kloppers, 21. MB Lusaseni, 22. Stephan de Witt, 23. Ross Cronje, 24. JW Jonker, 25. Ruan Combrinck, 26. Deon Helberg.

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