Sharks vow to improve as top players return for tour

2015-04-22 00:00

SHARKS director of rugby Gary Gold has vowed to earn the respect of ­disillusioned supporters when the ­Durban outfit depart for their Australasian tour next week.

With the players at his disposal at the beginning of the season, few would have thought the Sharks would be in a precarious position, where hopes of reaching the Super Rugby playoffs lie in tatters.

It is now up to those players, who were supposed to deliver earlier this season, to prove they are not just riding on reputations and form from years past.

While the players enjoy a week’s break after a taxing 10 weeks of rugby, Gold and his coaching staff are debating who will be entrusted to reignite the Sharks season on tour. A number of personnel are returning from injuries and bans in the next few weeks, while youngsters have put up their hands.

Let’s start with those who let their tempers get the better of them this season. Bismarck du Plessis is available once again for the first tour game against the Highlanders next week. However, it is still unknown if Du Plessis will reassume captaincy of the side after his five-week ban in round six.

Springbok centre Frans Steyn is also due back during the tour. He copped a five-week ban for his tip tackle on All Black flyhalf Aaron Cruden in the same game as Du Plessis, and will be in the mix for their second tour match against log leaders Hurricanes.

The third hot-headed musketeer, Jean Deysel, is only due back after the tour. He’ll be up for selection against the Rebels on May 29.

As for the walking wounded, there is plenty to be happy about.

Lock Stephan Lewies played his first game this season for the Sharks Vodacom Cup side last Friday and came out unscathed. He will be a welcome boon to the Sharks’ second row stocks on tour, and it would be good to see both Lewies and the promising Giant Mtyanda get more game time.

Flank Etienne Oosthuizen has played off the bench in the last two rounds of Super Rugby and is another option at lock, although he is more suited to back row play.

While Springbok props Beast ­Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis proved their worth at scrum-time against the Bulls, the Sharks will miss having ­replacement loosehead Thomas du Toit. The burly 20-year-old will be with the Junior Springboks during the tour. There is plenty of cover at loosehead though, as Dale Chadwick has proved himself an able-bodied backup for ­Mtawarira.

Lourens Adriaanse will step in for Du Plessis when needed.

While Tera Mtembu is still on the mend, the Sharks aren’t exactly lacking in the loose trio. Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee and Renaldo Bothma have more than proved that, but if Oosthuizen is left to cover lock, perhaps Khaya Majola will have a spot on the plane.

In the backline, Paul Jordaan has ­finally recovered from a freakish hip ­injury last year and could tour with the side. While he may be lacking game time, Jordaan could be the answer at 13, where both Pietersen and Waylon Murray have failed to inspire.

Either Jordaan or Sbura Sithole need to play at outside centre on tour if Gold intends to enter a rebuilding phase. ­Pietersen is likely to tour after a few weeks out injured, and is far better ­suited out on the wing.

Springbok wing Tonderai Chavhanga marked his return to rugby this year, scoring a try for the Vodacom Cup side last Friday — although the Sharks XV lost 36-13 to the Eagles.

Fred Zeilinga will no doubt continue to run the show at flyhalf while Pat Lambie sits out with a fractured neck vertebrae.

With only six games left to play, the Sharks sit in ninth place on the overall log and would need a miracle to book a spot in the qualifiers.

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