Currie Cup

Sharks quell intrigue over JJ van der Mescht's 'Pieter-Steph' switch ... for now

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JJ van der Mescht
JJ van der Mescht
Shaun Roy/Gallo Images
  • JJ van der Mescht's selection at No 7 for the Sharks this weekend suggests he could follow in the footsteps of Pieter-Steph du Toit.
  • The 21-year-old lock certainly boasts all of the attributes to make a successful transition in future.
  • Sharks coach Sean Everitt though insists that his selection is nothing more than an "experiment" for now.

The first step in grooming a new Pieter-Steph du Toit?

Sharks coach Sean Everitt on Wednesday was quick to point out his selection of JJ van der Mescht at blindside flanker for Friday's Currie Cup opener against the Pumas at Kings Park is, at least for now, nothing more than "experimental".

Then again, World Rugby's current Player-of-the-Year was also a specialist lock deputising at loose forward a few years ago.

"At the moment we still see JJ as a lock," said Everitt.

"It's an experiment for us. If it goes well, then certainly he's going to be an option in that position.

Considered a prodigy at junior level since his days at Glenwood, 21-year-old Van der Mescht definitely possesses the type of qualities that have made Du Toit so influential in the No 7 jersey.

While perhaps not as gangly, the 1.97m, 127kg exponent looks similarly robust, perhaps even "clumsy" to the Springbok incumbent, which belies a finer skillset that includes an ability to join the line very effectively and some brilliant hands.

"JJ definitely possesses the skills and the pace to be an effective blindsider," said Everitt.

"It's an opportunity to see how it goes in a position that he hasn't played in for some time."

Another major consideration for giving Van der Mescht game-time in the position is the Sharks' longer-term expectation that participation in the PRO16, where conditions can be slower, merely increases his suitability for the role.

"We have to look at next year too, where we'll play PRO Rugby. The games are a lot tighter and there's quite a reliance on the set-piece and mauls," said Everitt.

"With that in mind, if JJ can establish himself at flank, it will be great for us. We'll see how it goes."

Van der Mescht's selection forms part of the broader theme of the Durbanites going into the weekend's game with a pack bulging at the seams in terms of size.

Not that any coach would be complaining about being able to call upon a big chunk of meat like Thomas du Toit, who's back at tighthead, to provide further bolstering.

"We've had a few problems over the last couple of weeks, so we've had to tweak the pack. But it's a very strong side," said Everitt.

"The fact that Thomas returns is really good. We've struggled in our set-pieces without him. It's always good to have a Springbok back."

Kick-off in Durban is at 19:00 on Friday.

Teams:

Sharks

15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Jeremy Ward (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Thembelani Bholi, 7 JJ van der Mescht, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Zain Davids, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Werner Kok, 23 Sbu Nkosi

Pumas

TBA

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