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Jake’s first poser

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 12 Mar 2014 at 11:40
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

One can argue that Jake White hasn’t really been tested too much so far this season, at least not when it comes to team selection.

I’m sure there was a fair bit of late-night head-scratching involved when he named his first line-up a month back; which scrumhalf to start, who to pair with Pieter-Steph du Toit in the second row. Wait, actually that’s it, really, because the rest of the team pretty much selects itself. In hindsight, a few of the bench calls were possibly a little left-field (Stephan Lewies ahead of locks who played Currie Cup last year, no sign of Keegan Daniel or Jacques Botes) but by and large, you feel that White has selected the obvious team and has stuck with it, which is easy to do when the team wins and there aren’t any injuries.

This week, though, the loss of Paul Jordaan to injury and Odwa Ndungane to bereavement feels like a bomb going off in the camp, simply because we’re now so accustomed to the luxury of an unchanged 23 every week. I will admit to having ants in my pants all day on Saturday after I was tipped off about the Lambie withdrawal – and that was just a single change. What makes this week exciting and nerve-wracking in virtually equal parts is the fact that we now know there will have to be changes, but don’t really have a clue what Jake’s thinking is regarding the selections he has to make.

Aside from the backs that we know about, Anton Bresler also appears to be carrying a niggle and will need to get through a late fitness test in order to take his place on Saturday – that then at least two, but possibly three changes to the match 23 that White will need to make. While I may like to think I have some idea as to who might come in at 13 and 14 this week, I’ll admit to being completely in the dark as to a replacement for Bresler. I don’t think White would start Stephan Lewies alongside Pieter-Steph du Toit, but with Etienne Oosthuizen not even featuring in Vodacom Cup last week, it’s probably a bit of a stretch to expect him to feature either. Could Peet Marais finally be due for a Super Rugby cap, one wonders?

The Jordaan situation is likely to stymie White’s plans to re-introduce JP Pietersen gradually and having lost two outside backs, it’s really hard to imagine the coach not bringing his Springbok winger straight into the starting team. S’bura Sithole also now looks set to finally, finally get a maiden start at this level but it just remains to be seen whether the coaches will consider it too much of a risk to throw him straight in at outside centre, a position he’s never played competitively before, or will let Pietersen fill that role and rather ease Sithole in at right wing.

The dark horse here is Tonderai Chavanga, a player who seems to feature in White’s plans in some way, although he’s not as yet given us an indication as to exactly how. The former Bok has been out for a long time, but could prove a good option if a stopgap is needed in the back three. Word from the trenches, though, is that Jaco van Tonder has been running at right wing in training and while it’s probably unlikely that he would start this week, the former age-group star should be a good bet for a bench spot.

If I were to try and do a little mind-reading, here’s how I think the team will look when named at 8am tomorrow.

Sharks (possible): 15 SP Marais, 14 S’bura Sithole, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4 Anton Bresler/Peet Marais, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (capt), 1 Tendai Mtawarira
16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Jean Deysel, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 Jaco van Tonder


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