Sharks pull fit-again Steyn out of the hat for Currie Cup semi-final

2013-10-16 00:00

THE Sharks yesterday pulled Frans Steyn out of the hat and the Springbok utility back will start in the midfield in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Free State Cheetahs at King’s Park.

The 26-year-old Steyn injured his leg against the Highlanders in Dunedin early in May and underwent emergency surgery. He has been under the radar for months while recuperating, but has been running with the Sharks in recent weeks and the coaches are satisfied he is match fit.

He is to take over from Heimar Williams at inside centre and will play alongside Springbok Pat Lambie, who will start at flyhalf in place of Fred Zeilinga.

In a further significant change, Louis Ludik is to take over from Tim White­head at outside centre as the Sharks will field a new-look backline.

The Sharks have suffered injury setbacks, however, with two Springboks, tighthead Jannie du Plessis and flank Willem Alberts, to miss the semi-final.

“Jannie injured his hand [on Monday] and Wiehahan Herbst will take over,” coach Brad Macleod-Henderson said yesterday.

Alberts, who injured his neck in the Test against the All Blacks, is still not ready to return, he said.

Macleod-Henderson described the return of Steyn as “a huge plus”.

“He’s a player of exceptional quality and it’s easy to bring a player like him straight into the starting line-up. Frans is very keen to get back on the field. He’s done a lot of hard work and has been going well in training.”

The Sharks team will only be named today, but Macleod-Henderson confirmed that Ludik would join Steyn in the midfield with Lambie at flyhalf and Williams on the bench.

“The decision to include Frans was tough in some ways, but also easy in others. Frans is a world-class player and we are lucky to have him, although Heimar [Williams] has done really well for us all season.”

He said that the inclusion of Ludik ahead of Whitehead was also difficult.

“Tim has done very well for us, but Louis is defensively very strong and has a good kicking game. So it just gives us a few more options there.”

Captain Keegan Daniel also welcomed the return of Steyn.

“Frans is a world-class player and has done well in various competitions around the world. He brings experience and some X-factor. He’s a big guy and someone who will help us get over the advantage line.

“Having said that, it shouldn’t distract from what Heimar [Williams] has done this season. He’s really stepped up and he’s definitely someone for the future.

“But, at the end of the day, when you have someone of Frans’s ability, who is ready and raring to go, you have to make use of that opportunity,” said Daniel.

News from Bloemfontein is that another young Springbok flyhalf, the 21-year-old Free Stater Johan Goosen, will play in the second half against the Sharks. Cheetahs coach Naka Drotské said Elgar Watts would start the game with Goosen, out since March, taking over in the second half.

Marius van der Westhuizen will referee the game, which starts at 5 pm.

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