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Looking at the changes

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 9 Apr 2015 at 10:34
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , , ,

It’s been a while since we had much to talk about in terms of selection, with Gary Gold by and large keeping things as steady as he’s been able to, taking injury, suspension and rest into account.

This week, for the first time, it looks as though changes have been made for other reasons too – in other words, for perhaps the first time this season there’s a clear whiff of players being “dropped”, even though I’m sure that term will never be mentioned by the coaches. Let’s have a look at who’s in and who’s out and give our verdict.

Changing both starting props this week was perhaps a bit of a left field move, although the “rest” requirement certainly does add a bit of clarity to the thinking. Jannie du Plessis has played very well so far this season, while Beast Mtawarira has blown hot and cold. It’s hard to really argue that either has been dropped this week, but the coaches seem to have made a bit of a statement with this week’s selection by leaving out these two senior players. Their replacements now need to step up or step out. Dale Chadwick has put in some fine performances in the past at loosehead, but also some rather mediocre ones and if ever there was a time for him to show that he has a future (or IS the future) it’s this week. A dominant scrumming display against a highly-rated opponent in Julian Redelinghuys is the minimum requirement here; that applies even more so to Lourens Adriaanse, who has yet to really prove that it was worth jettisoning a handful of young home-grown tightheads in order to contract him. Lourens had a fantastic season with the Cheetahs in 2013 and it’s now time for him to rediscover that form. Jannie simply cannot play every game and we’ve seen that Matt Stevens struggles at this level. Time for Lourens to grab the baton, in other words.

At hooker, my heart bleeds for Kyle Cooper. I’ve always been a big fan of the player and consider him better than even the great Bismarck du Plessis in some areas; ball-carrying in particular. That doesn’t mean we can or should gloss over the mistakes he’s made since being given the starting role two weeks ago. I’m not even talking about the fumble in the 22 last week (I’ll give him credit for even being there) but rather set piece failings that saw tight heads conceded for seemingly failing to hook and some rather ordinary lineout throwing. The Sharks need their lineout to function in order for their game to work and Kyle, I’m afraid, simply hasn’t taken the opportunity in this regard. I’m incredibly pleased for Franco Marais, on the other hand and I’m sure he’s going to do well. There’s always a bit of nervousness when a new man starts for the first time, but when it comes to this kid, I’m really not worried.

The loose trio picks itself without Deysel there and the combination of Marcell Coetzee and Renaldo Bothma has worked well so far this season – they’re similar players in many ways but the effect of that pressure defence around the fringes is going to be important this week.

At flyhalf, Fred Zeilinga is the right man for the job and will have fond memories of a man-of-the-match performance at Ellis Park in his first Currie Cup campaign. Fred needs to get into the game early and shake off any rust he may be carrying, because his game management is what will be key for the Sharks. I have no doubt that he’ll step up and deliver a commanding performance; one that puts his name firmly back in the headlines.

SP Marais is apparently being rested this week. That makes sense, because for him to be dropped while the rest of the ordinary backline plays on would be highly unfair. We’ve been critical of SP in the past, but he’s raised his game over the last few weeks. Odwa at fullback is interesting; I’ve long felt that this may be his best position but I also wonder whether it might be a little late in the day to be making the switch. More concerning is that both S’bura Sithole and Lwazi Mvovo tend to suffer from low work rate on on the wing (a strength of Odwa’s) while Waylon Murray is simply not shaping at outside centre. We’ll need to see what happens out there, but I cannot quite fathom why Sithole wasn’t rather picked at 13, with the rest of the line left as is.


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