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Rugby | Currie Cup

Odwa has new life at fullback

The first winds of change to be ushered in by the Brendan Venter/Brad McLeod-Henderson era were felt on Wednesday when the first Sharks team to be selected by the new management team was announced in Durban.

Odwa Ndungane’s selection at fullback for the opening Absa Currie Cup clash against Griquas at Growthpoint Kings Park isn’t noteworthy on its own, as previous Sharks coach John Plumtree did play him there occasionally.

However that was usually in an emergency situation, which is not the case this time – director of rugby Venter is quite clear that the last line of defence is where the now former wing’s future lies.

“We were very impressed with Odwa in training, his conditioning is fantastic and he's a leader,” said Venter.

“We see him primarily as a fullback now. He will help to give our backbone some zip as well. He's experienced, he organises the backs and he kicks the ball out of hand beautifully.”

The selection of Ndungane as a fullback is made more noteworthy by the fact that Louis Ludik, who has spent most of his career in the No 15 jersey, is continuing in the outside centre position that he filled at the end of the Super Rugby season.

The other notable features of the team that has been selected to face Griquas are the return from long-term injury of centre Tim Whitehead, as well as veteran Springbok flyhalf Butch James’s return from the suspension he picked up when he lost his head and got carded for a dangerous tackle in the penultimate Super Rugby league game against the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria last month.

With Franco van der Merwe back at the MTN Lions and Pieter-Steph du Toit injured, former Springbok Marco Wentzel finds a place in the second row alongside Edwin Hewitt, who impressed in his first two Super Rugby matches for the Sharks.

Although Griquas are having to travel for this game and should not mount the sort of challenge they have in the past when they have hosted the Sharks in early matches in the competition, Venter is nonetheless not underestimating them.

"Griquas are a clever outfit, they know how to do well in the Currie Cup, they've recruited a lot of old hands, senior players, clever players and it will be a tough start for us. We look forward to it and we want to measure ourselves against these people and see how good we can be,” he said.

THE SHARKS: Odwa Ndungane, Sizo Maseko, Louis Ludik, Tim Whitehead, Lwazi Mvovo, Butch James, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel (captain), Jean Deysel, Brynard Stander, Marco Wentzel, Edwin Hewitt, Wiehahn Herbst, Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: Craig Burden, Rayno Gerber, Peet Marais, Tera Mtembu, Cobus Reinach, Fred Zeilinga, Jaco van Tonder.


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