Pienaar returns to scrumhalf as Sharks coach does desperate rejig

2010-03-05 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree has finally returned Ruan Pienaar to his favoured position of scrumhalf while Englishman Andy Goode will be at flyhalf for tomorrow’s tough Super 14 outing against the NSW Waratahs in Sydney.

Plumtree, in making a host of changes, has also rejigged his front-row and will field his three most experienced players – tighthead Jannie du Plessis, loosehead Deon Carstens and captain John Smit — in the specialist positions at prop and hooker.

Plumtree has also reshaped his midfield with Riaan Swanepoel returning at inside centre while Jacques Botes and Keegan Daniel swap places again at flank.

Plumtree has, in all, made eight changes – three positional – to the team beaten by the Cruasders last weekend.

The five who did not start against the Crusaders but are included tomorrow are Swanepoel, Goode, Carstens, Jannie du Plessis and Daniel, while Jacobs, Pienaar and Smit change their positions in the starting line-up.

Dropping down to the bench are centre Waylon Murray, scrumhalf and goalkicker Rory Kockott, two front-row Springboks, Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis, and flank Botes,

Plumtree, in his pre-season planning, had wanted to field Pienaar in his preferred position of scrumhalf and the Sharks’ latest acquisition, England flyhalf Goode, has finally allowed the switch.

Kockott, who has scored 39 of the Sharks’ 44 points this season with his boot and was one of their livelier performers against Crusaders, is unlucky to be omitted but Plumtree is hoping that Pienaar’s quicker clearing at the base of the scrum and attacking nous will add a new dimension to the Sharks’ backplay.

Goode, a prolific points-scorer in Europe, will take over the goal-kicking but it his general play, his ability to take his team-mates over the gainline, which will be under the spotlight tomorrow.

Goode did make a brief and unfortunate debut in the last quarter against the Crusaders — for just eight minutes before being yellow-carded — for a high tackle on Dan Carter.

The change in midfield, the dropping of the disappointing Waylon Murray and the switching of Adi Jacobs to outside centre where he has played most of his rugby, was expected. Swanepoel, over his shoulder injury, is now in jersey 12 and, while he may lack the pace and subtlety of some of the better inside centres in the Super 14, he has a high workrate, defends strongly and attacks the gainline.

The back three of JP Pietersen, Odwa Ndungane and Stefan Terblanche retain their positions but there could be a shake-up there in the near future if former Lions fullback/wing Louis Ludik again proves his fitness and form for the Sharks XV against Western Province in the Vodacom Cup match at Newlands tomorrow afternoon.

There are surprises at forward, most notably at loosehead prop where Carstens replaces current Bok Mtawarira, a move which could be aimed at shaking the Beast from his slumber.

Smit is back at hooker and, like Pienaar, will be more at home in his more natural position. His battle with loosehead Wallaby prop Benn Robinson, who had his number at Super 14 and Test level last year, will be postponed to the second half when Bok hooker Bismarck du Plessis will come off the bench with Smit shifting across to tighthead.

Also perhaps surprising is that big loose forward Willem Alberts, who was quiet against the Crusaders, retains the blindside flank spot ahead of Jean Deysel while there is little to choose between Daniel and Botes on the other side of the scrum.


Sharks team: 15. Stefan Terblanche, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11. JP Pietersen, 10, Andy Goode, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Johann Muller, 4. Steven Sykes, 3, Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Deon Carstens.

Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18. Wilhelm Steenkamp , 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Waylon Murray.

Kick-off: 10.40am (SA time). TV: M-Net and SS1.

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