Steyn to start against Bulls
The Sharks will probably be without Willem Alberts in Friday night’s important Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Bulls in Durban.
The Sharks' coaches have been keeping Alberts’ condition close to their chest, but it is understood that Alberts is still troubled by the sprained knee he suffered in the act of wriggling his way across the line for the first Springbok try in the second test against England at Coca-Cola Park.
Jacques Botes is also crocked, but with Jean Deysel fit the Sharks will still have the all-important services of a big ball-carrying flanker.
Indeed, Deysel’s head-to-head confrontation with the man who played instead of Alberts in the final test in Port Elizabeth 10 days ago could be a highlight of what is shaping up as an intriguing derby, with the Bulls needing to win to keep in touch with the Stormers in the South African conference battle.
Should the Bulls lose, the match between the Stormers and the Cheetahs later in the weekend will become irrelevant to the conference standings.
However the Sharks have as much, if not more, need to reverse the shock result of the first round.
With the Hurricanes shocking the Crusaders in Christchurch last weekend, the Sharks are now perilously close to missing out altogether on the play-offs, with several teams now logjammed together on 49 points.
After the unexpected defeat to the Lions last time out when the Sharks appeared to have played themselves back into contention for conference supremacy, the Durbanites will be desperate to get back on the winning track and keep their flickering title hopes alive.
They’ve had a longer break than most, with their second bye falling on the first weekend back from the June international window, but assistant coach Grant Bashford does not think the lengthy time away will impact negatively on match sharpness.
“The guys not involved with the Springboks all played two club games during the four weeks, plus there was the Barney’s Army game (John Smit benefit match), so while we have taken a break, the players have not been on holiday,” said Bashford.
An additional injury concern for the Sharks is lock Steven Sykes, who had to have a scope on his knee after the Lions game.
If he is unable to play, and it does appear unlikely he will, Sykes’s absence could offer an opportunity to South Africa under-20 star Pieter-Steph du Toit. Anton Bresler and Jandre Marais are also both available for selection.
The most positive bit of news for the Sharks is that Springbok back Frans Steyn will definitely start against the Bulls, and in so doing, will make his return to the Sharks after an absence of three years.
He will line up at inside centre, with Tim Whitehead moving to the No 13 jersey. Paul Jordaan, who played outside centre before being called up to the SA under-20 side, is injured.