Deysel leads, Viljoen at flyhalf
Jean Deysel will lead a Sharks team that, considering the number of Springboks that they have lost and how many others are being rested, looks surprisingly strong for Saturday’s Absa Currie Cup coastal derby against Western Province at Newlands.
The Sharks have travelled around the world and back in the past few weeks in pursuit of the dream of Super Rugby glory, and those players who will face Province who also made the trip overseas for the final last week are going to feel like zombies by the time they get to Cape Town. However, Sharks coach John Plumtree has enough players who, although they may have travelled, at least didn’t play too big an on-field role in the Super Rugby semifinal and final respectively.
One of those is flank Deysel himself. He was on the plane to Hamilton and played towards the end of both the semi against the Stormers and the final against the Chiefs, but Plumtree will be hopeful that he has enough energy in his legs to lead by example over a full 80 minutes. Last year the Sharks used this stage of the season to blood Keegan Daniel as a captain, but Daniel is with the Springbok squad currently preparing in Cape Town for the 18 August clash with Argentina.
Apart from the appointment of Deysel to lead the team, the other big call that Plumtree had to make was in the all-important halfback positions, where Frederic Michalak is no longer available, Patrick Lambie is with the Boks and scrumhalf Charl McLeod is in need of a rest after playing a big role in the play-off matches.
Plumtree has shown his thinking regarding the pivot role by handing the No 10 jersey to Riaan Viljoen, normally a fullback who has excelled at Currie Cup level in the past for Griquas. Although the Sharks are understrength, on the face of it their team appears to boast more first-class experience than the young WP side they will be playing against.
Apart from McLeod other players being rested this week include fullback Louis Ludik, who is replaced by the promising Gouws Prinsloo, and lock Anton Bresler. However Steve Sykes, who played only off the bench towards the close of the Super Rugby season, is back in the engine room and his partner Jandre Marais has Super Rugby experience.
The same holds for all three front-row forwards. Dale Chadwick, Wiehahn Herbst and Craig Burden all played at times when the Sharks’ Springbok big men were injured earlier in the year, and it goes without saying they will want to make a statement now that the Boks are away on international duty.
The start of the domestic season sees the return to the senior team of exciting wing S’bura Sithole, who was last year was one of several young players to make their mark in their first Currie Cup season.
THE SHARKS: Gouws Prinsloo, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Meyer Bosman, S’bura Sithole, Riaan Viljoen, Cobus Reinach, Tera Mtembu, Jean Deysel (captain), Jacques Botes, Jandre Marais, Steven Sykes, Wiehahn Herbst, Craig Burden, Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: Monde Hadebe, Julian Redelinghuys, Peet Marais, Francois Kleynhans, Conrad Hoffmann, Marius Joubert, Rosko Specman.