It’s time to step up

2015-02-17 00:00

AFTER a disappointing 35-29 loss in their Super Rugby opener against the Cheetahs, Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold could consider ringing some changes this week.

Besides the absence of Springbok loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira, who is facing a lengthy injury layoff after tearing his calf on Saturday night, Gold might be tempted to elevate a number of players to the starting XV after his charges failed to find any real continuity this weekend.

Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis pulled out of the match at the eleventh hour with a niggling shoulder injury and his replacement Kyle Cooper was ­uncharacteristically poor against the Cheetahs.

Usually an industrious ball runner and menace in the tight loose, Cooper was well off the pace and seemed jaded by the fired up Cheetahs.

Cooper’s kick that led to Francois ­Venter’s try will be one he will want to forget in a hurry.

The good news is that Du Plessis was back on the training pitch yesterday and, fitness-permitting, will reclaim his spot at hooker for this weekend’s match against the Lions in Durban.

Beast’s absence poses a real headache at loosehead prop. Dale Chadwick is an able replacement, but he also had a lacklustre showing on Saturday.

While the Sharks scrum was fairly ­solid, Chadwick was outshone by ­Cheetahs and Springbok tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen. The massive Bok prop was prominent on attack and ­regularly crossed the advantage line, coupled with a few clean breaks.

One wonders if Thomas du Toit will be in line for selection. The “tank engine” was a revelation in last year’s Currie Cup in the scrum and open play. He is far bulkier than Chadwick and more mobile than former English prop Matt Stevens. However, he failed to make the match-day 23 and played in a warm-up match against College Rovers on Thursday night.

Mouritz Botha and Peter-Steph du Toit were industrious in the second row and are likely to retain their spots for the next few weeks. Du Toit’s return to ­fitness is a welcome relief and he will have to fire again this weekend against a physical Lions pack.

The Sharks needed Marcell Coetzee and Renaldo Botha to come out firing, but both flanks struggled to stamp their authority on the game. They were ­outshone by Jean Deysel, who replaced Tera Mtembu, even though the eighthman was one of the more impressive forwards on the day.

Deysel’s physicality highlighted the gap in intensity between the two sides on Saturday and his impact had a big effect on the Sharks’ second-half resurgence. He seems likely to move into the starting line-up, replacing either ­Mtembu or Botha.

The Sharks backline had moments of brilliance but they were just not clinical enough on the night. Pat Lambie and ­Cobus Reinach could have taken more control in the first half but perhaps ­kicked away too much possession.

Outside them, Heimar Williams and Waylon Murray stepped up well in their first Super Rugby match together. They were also guilty of making simple errors and Williams will likely make way for Frans Steyn when the Springbok returns from Japan in the next few weeks.

Murray probably deserves another few weeks in the starting XV to catch up with the speed and intensity of Super Rugby. It would also be good to see S’bura Sithole get another crack at outside centre, where he excelled during the Currie Cup.

The Sharks face the Lions next up and considering Gold lamented his charges lack of intensity this weekend — they will be up for another physical clash on ­Saturday.

Perhaps the inclusion of Deysel and Du Plessis will give the Sharks the mongrel to out-muscle the men from up north. If anything, they need far more hunger, physicality and urgency if they are to get their season back on track.

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