Durban – The Sharks have been cruising the warm waters of the east coast in the opening rounds of Super Rugby but have hit some stormy weather of late in the form of injures and losing their unbeaten status to the Bulls.
And this has drawn an air of defiance from director of rugby Jake White ahead of tomorrow's match against the Waratahs (5pm).
Injuries have been piling up, with lock Anton Bresler the latest to join a casualty list that includes Paul Jordaan, Keegan Daniel, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Cobus Reinach and Patrick Lambie.
The season-long loss of the bruising Bresler has forced White into moving bulldozer flank Willem Alberts to the second row and recalling another pile-driving flank, Jean Deysel, to the side. The latter has just recovered from a thigh injury.
In another unanticipated move, White has made an unforced change at fullback, dropping the exciting SP Marais to the bench and moving Lwazi Mvovo from wing to 15, which then gives the coach the opportunity to bring back Odwa Ndungane on the wing following two weeks away because of a family bereavement.
“It’s been a bit daunting, the last couple of weeks injury-wise, but now we must bounce back,” White said. “We have a week off after this game, so we can give it a full go against the Waratahs. We have nothing to lose and we can leave nothing out there.
“We let ourselves down last week against the Bulls. It happens, it’s highly unlikely a team will go through the whole tournament unbeaten. And I’m not making excuses, but when you lose your nine and ten within the space of 10 minutes, it doesn’t help you.”
White said his rebuilding team would take the win any way it presented itself.
“You take the win any way you can,” the coach said. “I would like it to be in style, I would like the backs to get some ball and show what they can do because I’m really excited about this backline. If we get a sniff of the ball and we get into open play, there is no reason to sit back on our heels.”
The selection of Mvovo has taken almost every rugby pundit by surprise, but White says it is not a gamble. “Lwazi has played 50-odd Super Rugby games, a couple of Test matches and is one of our form backs, and now that Odwa has come back, he merits a place in the team,” White explained.
There was the option of moving veteran Ndungane to fullback, but White says Mvovo is a better bet.
“I don’t think Odwa’s a fullback,” he said. “I’m more excited about seeing Lwazi playing at 15. He has similar attributes to Percy Montgomery. He’s quick and he likes broken-field play.”
White pointed out that the Sharks have scored the most tries from first phase in the competition.
“Something like 85% of our tries have been scored by backs, so to get Odwa back and Lwazi in at fullback, and with Paul Jordaan returning soon, we will have the five quickest guys in the franchise playing for us.”
Sharks: 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 S’bura Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira. Bench: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Ettienne Oosthuizen, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Stefan Ungerer, 22 Heimar Williams, 23 SP Marais.– Cape Times