Sharks shuffle the deck for tomorrow’s do-or-die match

2009-05-08 00:00

FIVE changes and a return to an old midfield partnership are the features of the Sharks team named for the do-or-die Super 14 game against the Waratahs at King’s Park tomorrow.

Injuries, and the suspension of scrumhalf Rory Kockott, have resulted in head coach John Plumtree naming a new-look backline with four changes.

The good news is that Springbok centre Adrian Jacobs has been passed fit and he will rejoin his old midfield partner Brad Barritt, who flew in from London on Tuesday to help the injury-hit Sharks.

A week ago Jacobs was facing surgery to his damaged shoulder and three months on the sideline while the British Lions were touring South Africa.

But Craig Roberts, the Sharks doctor, said the injury had responded well to treatment, allowing Jacobs to make an early return.

Barritt was slotted into the Sharks line-up just hours after flying in from England where he was contracted to Saracens.

“He has fitted in really well,” said assistant coach Grant Bashford yesterday. “He has only been gone six months and knows the Sharks players well. He is match fit, he is enthusiastic and he has the experience to prop up our midfield,” he added.

Making his first start for the Sharks tomorrow is lively scrumhalf Charl McLeod, who takes over from Kockott, while Springbok flyhalf Ruan Pienaar, on the bench against the Highlanders last Saturday, starts in place of the injured Frans Steyn. Pienaar will also take over the place-kicking from Kockott.

Against the Highlanders, the Sharks fielded Kockott, Pienaar, Riaan Swanepoel and Andries Steyn at nine, 10, 12 and 13; their inside backs against the Waratahs will be McLeod, Pienaar, Barritt and Jacobs.

“The great news is having Ruan coming back as well,” said Bashford, “and the timing of Barritt’s return was perfect. Losing Frans, an experienced youngster like him, was terrible, but it was lucky for us to get Brad back and he comes at a crucial time.”

The only change at forward is at tighthead prop where it is Jannie du Plessis’ turn to start with John Smit coming off the bench.

Waratahs coach Chris Hickey admitted that the uncertainty over the composition of the Sharks side had made it harder for him to plan for the must-win game between teams fourth and fifth on the log.

The Waratahs named their team on Wednesday with centre Rob Horne on the wing and Luke Burgess at scrumhalf in place of Brett Sheehan.

“In some ways you are better off knowing what you are getting, knowing who you are going to compete against,” said Hickey.

“That uncertainty of not knowing what their line-up will be makes it a little harder to get a read on how they might play. But with the depth and strength of rugby in South Africa, you know that the player who they get to replace is good anyhow.”

Despite Barritt’s return, Hickey said the most crucial selection for the Sharks would be that of Springbok Ruan Pienaar.

“The significant selection there is Pienaar at (flyhalf) five-eighth,” he said. “They look like a different team with him there.”

The match kicks off at 3 pm and Mark Lawrence (SA) will referee the game.

Sharks team: 15. Stefan Terblanche, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Adrian Jacobs, 2. Brad Barritt, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Ruan Pienaar, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Johann Muller (capt), 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. John Smit, 17. Deon Carstens, 18. Albert van den Berg, 19. Keegan Daniel 20. Monty Dumond, 21. Riaan Swanepoel, 22. Luzuko Vulindlu.

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