Auckland - Although the Sharks can expect to be without influential flanker Jean Deysel for Friday’s Super Rugby clash against the Blues in Auckland, the good news is that the rest of the squad looks set to be available for selection.
The outcome of Deysel’s judicial hearing into his red-card offence from Saturday’s game against the Crusaders was yet to be announced as of late Monday night, but there is no doubt that he will face at least some form of further suspension.
Despite this expected setback, the Sharks were at least able to come through a physically demanding encounter without any serious injuries, and this gives Jake White the opportunity to retain his winning combinations, by and large.
Importantly, White does have a number of options still available in the loose trio, where Willem Alberts can move back to his preferred position of blindside flank in place of Deysel, while Ryan Kankowski or Keegan Daniel could slot in at No 8.
At openside flank, talented Tera Mtembu produced an immense performance against the Crusaders, and young Etienne Oosthuizen also made a timely impact at No 4 lock, which may well mean we’ve seen the last of Alberts in the second row this season.
“I’m never one to single out individuals, but it’s nice to know that we have such depth coming through,” White commented from the team’s base in Auckland on Monday.
“Tera made his first start at the weekend and certainly didn’t look out of place.
Etienne hasn’t played much rugby this season either, but he also really contributed...
“Then the replacements came off the bench and made a big impact. So everyone feels like they’re now contributing to the success of the team and playing a part, so last Saturday’s performance has served as a real morale booster.”
There was also a massive response from Frans Steyn, who bounced back from an indifferent display against the Brumbies to send out a stark reminder of the quality he possesses.
Last week, White admitted that he was considering giving Steyn a rest simply because he had started every game so far this season, but the 27-year-old insisted that he wanted to make a contribution to the Sharks’ cause.
“Steyn’s performance didn’t surprise me, he got quite a bit of flak the week before for the way he’d performed, but the one thing about him is that he’s the type of player that wanted to get right back on the horse so to speak,” said the Sharks director of rugby.
“He didn’t shy away from the fact that he needed to set things right, and he proved that by the way he took control when we were down to 14 men.
“The manner in which he created the first try for S’bura (Sithole) also showed once again what he can do. People have now seen when he’s on song, he’s as good as anyone in the game.”
It also bodes well for Friday’s match against the dangerous Blues, with the Sharks looking to continue evolving their attack, although White acknowledged that it was an incredible defensive display that inspired their win over the Crusaders.
“Our first try came off according to plan, and to be fair we didn’t just go into our shells and kick everything back, so I was pleased with that,” he commented.
“Defensively we’ve had such a great record, and to keep the Crusaders tryless for the whole time when we were down to 14 men, and even when we had 13 men for 10 minutes, it speaks volumes for how we defend.”