Sharks boosted by returning Boks
The Sharks have been boosted ahead of their re-run of last year’s Absa Currie Cup final by the return of two players who have been away with the Springboks.
Coach John Plumtree has also been able to recall lock Steve Sykes after an injury lay-off, so the Sharks will go into their return meeting with the Golden Lions in Johannesburg on Saturday evening sporting three changes from the side that beat Western Province in Durban last weekend.
The two players who were away earlier in the competition because of Springbok commitments who have been reintroduced to the mix are wing Lwazi Mvovo and hooker Craig Burden.
They replace Rosko Specman and Pieter Dixon respectively. Both Dixon and Specman drop out of the match 22 completely after playing in the starting team last week.
Exciting young outside centre Paul Jordaan is also back, but only as a reserve this week as Plumtree eases him back from a break enforced by him sustaining concussion in the match against Griquas two weeks ago.
Plumtree would also have taken into consideration the need to give Tim Whitehead a chance to build on his performance last week in his own comeback from injury.
Sykes comes back into the team in place of Jandre Marais, who drops to the bench. His return has come at an opportune time as the Sharks will be banking on their tight five to front the threat posed by the Lions' pack in a top-of-the-log clash that the Sharks will be desperate to win as they are looking to break a sequence of defeats at Coca Cola Park.
It is interesting to note that Cobus Reinach has been retained at scrumhalf for the second successive week ahead of Springbok Charl McLeod.
Apart from a draw in Johannesburg in the 2011 Super Rugby season and a big loss in last year’s domestic decider when the Sharks were red-hot favourites to win, the Sharks are still feeling a bit sore about the shock defeat they suffered there just before the break for the international window in the most recent Super Rugby season.
The Sharks and Lions top the log, five points clear of the rest of the teams on 20 log points, but it is the Lions who have a slight edge at the moment on points difference.
So a Sharks win in Johannesburg will see them take ownership of top position with three matches to play, and after being forced to travel for last year’s Currie Cup final as well as for their recent series of Super Rugby knock-out fixtures, home-ground advantage is something they will be prepared to sweat blood for.
After winning their opening Currie Cup game at Newlands their recent away form hasn’t been great, with defeats to the Bulls at Loftus and Griquas in Kimberley spoiling the impressive momentum they have picked up at home.
THE SHARKS: Louis Ludik, Odwa Ndungane, Tim Whitehead, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Riaan Viljoen, Cobus Reinach, Keegan Daniel (captain), Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Anton Bresler, Steven Sykes, Wiehahn Herbst, Craig Burden, Dale Chadwick.
Replacements: Monde Hadebe, Julian Redelinghuys, Jandre Marais, Brynard Stander, Charl McLeod, Paul Jordaan, S’bura Sithole.