Sharks face flyhalf conundrum
The Cell C Sharks will build up to one of their biggest matches of the Vodacom Super Rugby season this week needing to answer searching questions in several areas, not least of them the flyhalf position that has been left vacant by the injury to Patrick Lambie.
The first choice pivot was missed for both his play-making skills and leadership in the scratchy 19-17 win over the Southern Kings at the weekend, and with memories of Curwin Bosch’s strong performance there as a replacement against the Waratahs still strong, there must be a temptation to consider the former South African Schools flyhalf for the No 10 jersey.
Although there are question marks over Bosch’s front on defence, which is why he has played most of his senior rugby as a fullback, the Sharks cupboard was made to look a bit bare against the Kings. Coach Robert du Preez will have to think long and hard before showing faith in Bernhard Janse van Rensburg or the trip to Bloemfontein and the crucial derby against the Cheetahs.
The Cheetahs aren’t quite the hoodoo team they used to be for the Sharks, but they have grown a lot under the coaching of Franco Smith and the Sharks will have to play very well to stand a chance of winning. Smith is clever enough to exploit potential weaknesses at flyhalf, as indeed the Kings did with relative success in playing on Bosch at fullback at the weekend.
Although the Sharks did have a lot of possession in the Kings game, the first phase ball was often untidy, and Du Preez referenced that when he defended Van Rensburg’s anonymous Super Rugby debut after the match.
“We did not get the forward dominance we hoped for, and that did not help Bernhard, but he will have learned a lot from his debut,” said Du Preez.
Garth April came on for Janse van Rensburg in the second half and there was a noticeable improvement in the Sharks’ performance when he was on the field. Ditto for Michael Claassens at scrumhalf. So Du Preez could consider starting with April, who produced some match-winning performances last year but has become something of a forgotten man in Durban.
April paid for a perception that he was too prone to be erratic last season, but perhaps Du Preez will be prepared to take that risk and hope that April produces one of those days in Bloem that makes him look like a world beater.
Moving Bosch to flyhalf is an option that might depend on the fitness of French fullback Clement Poitrenaud, who sat out the Kings game with a groin strain.
“Curwin’s kick at the end to win the game from inside his own half showed that he is a class act and can handle the pressure,” said Du Preez.
Indeed, there is no disputing Bosch’s match winning abilities with the boot, and after his performance against the Waratahs he should be in the starting mix regardless of whether it is at fullback or flyhalf. However, he is far from the finished article, and the same can be said for the other flyhalves available to Du Preez.