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Xerox Golden Lions 10 10 48
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Backline changes – not popular in my book

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Currie Cup, Original Content, Sharks on 18 Sep 2014 at 12:45
Tagged with : , , , , , , , ,

While I’ll not slate the Sharks for the one change to the starting pack this week, I have to raise my voice against the decision to once again fiddle with the backs, to no good purpose.

Stephan Lewies would have started in an unchanged 8 had it not been for his late withdrawal. Had he been fit to start, the Sharks would have hit the ground running with the same pack that performed well enough last week. JC Astle, Franco Marais and Thomas du Toit were set to come onto the bench in the only changes to the forward unit – Astle now find himself starting, with Johan Meyer spared the axe. Thomas du Toit has a toe injury which hasn’t come right either, meaning another week for Danie Mienie. All a little unfortunate, but unavoidable.

Injuries happen. We move on.

Some continuity is a good thing…

I’m very pleased that the Sharks retained the same guys at 9, 10 and 12 this week (despite the misgivings of my learned friend Morne). I have had a lot to say about all three of them, but Conrad Hoffmann, in particular, stood up and impressed the socks off me last week. Lionel Cronje and Andre Esterhuizen both made mistakes in abundance against the Cheetahs, but both at the same time looked as though they had a plan in mind.

Regular readers will know that I am unashamedly a Fred Zeilinga man (and a Heimar Williams man too, for that matter) but endorse the decision, all the same, to persevere with Cronje given Zeilinga’s poor start to the season. Fred is a thorny issue at the moment. I do believe he is our future at flyhalf, but I also believe he’s in a proper second-season slump and needs to learn from his mistakes and come back a better player.

Esterhuizen is big, strong and direct. Sure, he needs to work on catching and passing, but he gives our backline much-needed direction at 12, unlike Paul Jordaan who tends to wander all over the show en route to dying with the ball.

…but why, oh why, disrupt the centre pair?

I can’t agree with the decision to move S’bura Sithole to wing. S’bura has been our main (nay, only) strike runner and has consistently looked the part at 13. Sure, he also needs to work on various aspects, foremost being ball retention and looking for support, but we owe it ourselves (and to him) to let him settle in the position in which he’s shown the most promise. I do not think S’bura is anywhere near as effective at wing and by picking him there, we weaken our backline.

Paul Jordaan is a fantastic player who is not in good form and if anything, I would argue that his skillset is far more suited to a role at wing than it is to outside centre anyway. I don’t have any major problem with the decision to restore him to the starting team after a week off, but it should be Jordaan at wing this week, with S’bura given the opportunity to increase his understanding with Esterhuizen. That could be a fantastic centre pairing for us going forward and it’s really rather shortsighted to not keep them together.

Welcome back Lwazi – and SP too!

I must say, I enjoyed Lwazi Mvovo at fullback in Super Rugby and given that we seem hell-bent on a merry-go-round in the fifteen jersey anyway, would have been tempted to pick him there, with Chavhanga at wing. All the same, it’s just awesome to have him in the team and with Lwazi GAGGING for some game time, we expect to see him involved in as much play as he can possibly be. SP Marais has served out his time and certainly looked better against the Cheetahs (albeit at wing, not fullback) so I’m prepared to give him another go, although I wonder what purpose it served having first Jaco van Tonder, then Tim Swiel, in the starting team for one game each. There’s too much chopping and changing in the back three for my liking and I can’t work out why it’s necessary.

Let’s hope we don’t end up regretting the absence of Zeilinga on the bench; after all, since Swiel now seems to be the young fullback-elect, I can’t really see the logic in asking him to cover flyhalf too.


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