Newlands clash will test depth of players

2013-04-09 00:00

THE Stormers yesterday lost their Springbok flyhalf, Elton Jantjies, to injury, but the Sharks face selection problems of their own ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby derby at Newlands.

Jantjies (a tweaked knee) and his former Lions team-mate, Springbok fullback Jaco Taute (torn knee ligament), were both injured during the narrow loss to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

The Stormers, like the Sharks, will be without some nine of their first-choice players this weekend, turning the contest into a test of player depth in each franchise.

Compounding the Stormers’ problem is that the experienced Peter Grant is also out of action and third-choice flyhalf Gary van Aswegen will start in the pivot role against the Sharks.

Bryan Habana, Gerhard van den Heever, Tiaan Liebenberg, Eben Etzebeth and Schalk Burger are also unavailable, but coach Allister Coetzee is hoping that forwards Siya Kolisi and possibly Don Armand and Rynhardt Elstadt will be cleared to play.

The Sharks have been hit by a series of injuries to their loose forwards with flanks Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Jacques Botes out of action.

There is a chance that Deysel may be ready this weekend, but head coach John Plumtree could stay with the backrow that finished the game against the Crusaders when Keegan Daniel and Marcell Coetzee were joined by number eight Ryan Kankowski following the injury to Botes.

Plumtree also has the option of starting with lock Anton Bresler, who had an excellent final quarter as a replacement against the Crusaders. He could also switch the talented Pieter-Stef du Toit from lock to blindside flank, adding to the physicality of the pack and the height in the lineout.

Sharks assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards said the win over the Crusaders was a “great result” for the Sharks. “It was, as a home game, vital against a team we have struggled against for years …”

He said the second-half display would boost the confidence of the players, but the pressure remained. “We play the Stormers, who know they have to win at Newlands, the in-form Cheetahs and then the champion Chiefs in New Zealand.

“We know what is waiting on Saturday. The Stormers are under the cosh and have to win. We can expect 40 000 people there and it will be noisy.”

What will be of concern to Plumtree will be the patchy form of Frans Steyn who was at fullback on Friday night. The Springbok could do nothing right against the Crusaders, conceding penalties and possession, and frequently being caught out of position.

Plumtree has a capable replacement in Riaan Viljoen, but the Sharks coach will be reluctant to drop the imposing if out-of-touch Steyn.

Steyn will have his day again — and Sharks supporters will be hoping it is at Newlands on Saturday evening (kick-off 5.05 pm).

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