Zeilinga to make Cup debut for Sharks

2013-08-07 00:00

THE 20-year-old Fred Zeilinga is expected to make his Currie Cup debut for the Sharks when they face Griquas at King’s Park on Friday night.

The young flyhalf, a product of Glenwood High, was impressive when he came off the bench during the Sharks’ final Super Rugby outing against the Southern Kings last month. With Pat Lambie away with the Springbok squad, and Butch James nursing a slight calf strain, Zeilinga is expected to start on Friday.

Coach Brad Macleod-Henderson said that the Sharks were looking to blood several youngsters during the Currie Cup with Zeilinga certain to be one of them.

While Zeilinga is taking his first steps in Currie Cup rugby, former Springbok wing Odwa Ndungane is in the twilight of his career, but Brendan Venter, the Sharks’ new director of rugby, said the 32-year-old had a pivotal role in a revamped backline.

Venter said the Sharks’ coaching staff saw Ndungane “primarily as a fullback” and not a wing.

“We have tested the players and Odwa was the third fastest player in our squad. We have been very impressed with his stats. His conditioning is fantastic and he’s a leader.

“He will help to give our backbone some zip as well. He’s experienced, he organises the backs and he kicks the ball out of hand beautifully. After losing Riaan Viljoen [to Japan] and possibly Louis Ludik [to France], we’re privileged to have Odwa to take over.

“He was brilliant in the final Super Rugby game against the Kings, and he has excelled at training,” said Venter.

Venter said that SP Marais, a new recruit from the Kings, would not start at fullback, but would be invaluable in the squad.

“He’s a good acquisition, because he can play a couple of positions. It’s a long-term investment for SP to be at a top union like the Sharks.”

The Sharks have lost three Super Rugby locks with Pieter-Steph du Toit and Anton Bresler currently injured while Franco van der Merwe is back with the Golden Lions.

CEO John Smit said that Edwin Hewitt, recently signed from Griquas, had already made an impression.

“He’s not a flash in the pan. I think he has a really big future if he commits to the environment that’s been created here and works hard. He’s going to be a very big player within the South African landscape, let alone here at the Sharks.”

Hewitt is likely to lock the scrum with former Springbok lock Marco Wentzel, who has been contracted as a player and line-out coach.

Macleod-Henderson said that he was looking to the experienced Wentzel to make an impact as a player, at least initially, while Bresler and Du Toit are sidelined by injury.

A bonus for the Sharks, if not for Jean Deysel, is that the burly flank has been overlooked by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer. Certainly, the Sharks will be well-served in the backrow where they have captain Keegan Daniel, Deysel, Jacques Botes, Tera Mtembu, Justin Downey and Brynard Stander.

Currie Cup fixtures this weekend (home team first):

Friday – Sharks vs Griquas, 7.10 pm.

Saturday - Golden Lions vs Free State, 3.00pm; WP vs Blue Bulls, 5.05 pm

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