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Looking ahead to the tour

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 13 Mar 2012 at 08:00
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

With the Sharks playing their last game in South Africa for a month – against the Reds on Saturday – our thoughts inevitably will turn towards the upcoming tour. The squad, we assume, will depart for Australia and New Zealand shortly after Saturday’s game.

With only 26 places up for grabs, competition amongst the squad is likely to be intense with a number of players unfortunately likely to be left at home; that said, with four tough matches lined up for the tour party, it’s inevitable that a replacement or two will need to be summoned at some point.

A number of players will definitely not be fit in time to tour – long-term casualties Alistair Hargreaves, Beast Mtawarira, Ryan Kankowski and Julian Redelinghuys are all definitely out of contention, but should hopefully all still recover in time to play some part in the Sharks’ 2012 campaign. Three other players, Kyle Cooper, Jean Deysel and Conrad Hoffmann are all on the comeback trail from injury and will need to prove their fitness via the Vodacom Cup this weekend in order to be considered for tour places.

The Sharks have used exactly 26 players so far over the last 3 rounds, but it would probably be naive to expect that it would be this exact group of players earmarked to tour; with Deysel in particular likely to be named in the group, it would probably be safe to assume that Tera Mtembu would be left behind, while Marius Joubert and to a lesser extent Louis Ludik are also far from certain tourists.

The stickiest problem at this stage is to find a fourth prop option – Dale Chadwick, Jannie du Plessis and Wiehahn Herbst are all certainties, but there must surely be some cover outside of these names taken along just in case. Plumtree is only using one hooker at the moment, so there surely won’t be any need for cover outside of Bismarck du Plessis and Craig Burden. That said, with Kyle Cooper having spent some time at loosehead prop for the Sharks XV on Friday night, it’s possible there might be a spot for him as a utility front-ranker in the squad.

Assuming all of Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee and Deysel make the grade as loose forwards, that leaves room for just three locks, with both Deysel and Alberts able to do a job in the second row if required. Ross Skeate, Steven Sykes and Anton Bresler are the men who have been entrusted in the second row so far and will probably be the three to go on tour.

With 14 forwards chosen, places among the backs will be hotly contested. We can assume that Fred Michalak, Charl McLeod, Pat Lambie, Meyer Bosman, Tim Whitehead, JP Pietersen, Odwa Ndungane, Lwazi Mvovo and Riaan Viljoen all have their places already sewn up. That leaves three spots up for grabs and it’s safe to assume that one of them will go to Paul Jordaan, who has been in the match 22 every week so far. Ludik should, barring accidents, crack the nod for the second-last place, with the coaches then needing to decide between Hoffmann and Joubert for the final spot – with the former’s fitness perhaps casting the deciding vote.


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