Sharks resting World Cup Boks for as long as possible, says coach Dick Muir

2008-01-23 00:00

The Sharks will not select their World Cup Springboks for the pre-season friendly against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on February 1.

Sharks coach Dick Muir (pictured right) said yesterday that he plans to field his strongest line-up in the second trial match against the Lions at King’s Park on February 6.

“We want to give the World Cup Boks as long a break as possible and they won’t play in Bloem, but we will play close to a first-choice side against the Lions.”

Muir has the depth in all areas to cover both games though a couple of first-choice tight forwards remain on the injured list.

Props Deon Carstens and Pat Cilliers are only expected to return in March, but Muir has Springboks BJ Botha and Jannie du Plessis, Namibian World Cup player Kees Lensing, the promising Beast Mtawarira and Robbie Harris as front-row cover.

His other injury concern is impressive lock Steven Sykes, who is recovering from shoulder surgery, but Muir is hoping he will be ready for the start of the Super 14.

Muir has had veteran lock Johan Ackermann standing by since the beginning of the year. Ackermann, who turns 38 in June this year, had announced his retirement at the end of last year, but Muir has asked him to stay fit in case of an emergency.

“Johan has been training on his own, but he is the perfect stopgap if Steven’s return is delayed.”

Muir said he has still not decided on just where all his versatile backs will fit into his plans.

“It depends on how things go in the trial games. Selection will also depend on the demands of each game, but we have all sorts of options.”

Francois Steyn, for instance, played at centre at the RWC, but can also be used at fullback, wing or flyhalf, Stefan Terblanche could be at wing or fullback, and JP Pietersen is a likely wing but may play at fullback.

Fit, flourishing and in-form, the Sharks backline is likely to read (15-9) Francois Steyn, Odwa Ndungane, Waylon Murray, Brad Barritt, JP Pietersen, Frederick Michalak and Ruan Pienaar, though Terblanche, Adrian Jacobs, Henno Mentz and Rory Kockott will all be challenging.

Muir said that muscular Tongan Epi Taione, who plays centre and loose forward, would only arrive once his Japanese club had finished their knock-out cup season — “probably in mid-February”.

“We will probably use him as a ball-carrying loose forward,” said Muir, “but there may be occasions when we want his power in midfield.”

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