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Invest in the forgotten man

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 28 May 2013 at 12:09
Tagged with : , , , , , ,

Those of you, like me, who are no doubt already thinking ahead to the Currie Cup campaign (given that Super Rugby is over for us Sharks… funny, since we were meant to be winning it this year) might have spotted the same thing I have. It relates to the second row…

To my way of thinking, the noises coming from the Boks camp are pretty clear; Heyneke Meyer is looking at Pieter-Steph du Toit as a key member of his squad going forward and the chances, thus, that the youngster won’t be included in the squad for this year’s Rugby Championship would appear to be slim. Meyer, along with most other keen viewers of the game, seems to have identified du Toit as the right man to partner Eben Etzebeth going forward, describing the pair as “the next Bakkies [Botha] and Victor [Matfield]” in the Bok second row. Even if Steph doesn’t earn a test starting spot straight away, you can virtually go to the bank on him being a key part of any squad Meyer selects going forwards.

Now, the Sharks’ decision to recruit Franco van der Merwe for the Super Rugby tournament has had, to my mind, exactly the consequence we thought it would, with young home-grown locks in whom a lot of time has been invested, left out in the cold. Jandre Marais is the one who seems to have taken it most personally, with his exit to France not yet completely confirmed in terms of timing, but pretty certain to coincide with the start of the new French season. The older Marais, in other words, isn’t likely to feature for the Sharks at Currie Cup level this year and while I have nothing personal against Jandre at all, my view is that playing him any further at Super Rugby level now would quite simply be a wasted opportunity.

It’s Jandre’s younger brother, Peet, to whom the Sharks must surely now look, as he is sure to feature alongside Anton Bresler in the second row for the Currie Cup campaign. With du Toit off with the Boks – and Franco van der Merwe presumably back with the Lions, the Sharks will need the younger Marais to step up and deliver in the number 5 jersey, as well as growing into a suitable deputy for Bresler and du Toit at Super Rugby level in 2014.

To my mind, the Sharks simply have no further reason or justification for playing Franco van der Merwe ahead of locally-contracted players. They must release him back to the Lions immediately, and back Peet Marais on the bench as deputy to Bresler and du Toit for the three remaining matches of this year’s campaign.


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