Lest we ever doubt the Sharks’ coaching staff’s commitment to a policy of rotation in the Currie Cup, at training yesterday there was clearly a major overhaul to the team that beat Griquas last week for this weekend’s home match against the Cheetahs.
The Sharks team that won by the skin of their teeth in Kimberley has been revamped as the coaches show that that they back the depth in their squad.
One of the big earners of this policy is loose forward Tera Mtembu, who is set to start on the flank in a totally revised loose trio.
Mtembu had some brilliant cameos for the Sharks earlier this year in Super Rugby, and gains his first start of the Currie Cup, with bruised Jean Deysel taking a break. And with another hard-campaigning player in Jacques Botes also earning respite, returning Springbok Marcell Coetzee is back on the other flank, with Keegan Daniel moving back to No8.
There are also changes to the tight five. At loosehead prop, Dale Chadwick returns for Dannie Mienie and in the second row, Peet Marais is back for Edwin Hewitt.
The backline is similarly refreshed. At flyhalf, Butch James makes way for youngster Fred Zeilinga, in the midfield Louis Ludik has been granted a break, with Heimar Williams returning at 12 and Tim Whitehead moving from 12 to 13 for Ludik, and on the right wing, Odwa Ndungane is back from injury to take over from Sizo Maseko.
“Rotation this week has always been part of the plan,” said backline coach Sean Everitt. “At loose forward, in particular, we have been able to give tired players a break, thanks in large to the return of Coetzee.
“Both Deysel and Botes have carried a heavy workload, starting each game, and the same goes for Ludik amongst the backs and Williams played well in the beginning so we don’t mind rotating Louis with Heimar, who will start at 12 with Whitehead moving to 13.”
Everitt said that the coaches had no qualms about including Coetzee so soon after his return from New Zealand on Bok duty.
“Marcell is a very fit and enthusiastic young man. He brings a lot of energy to the team. Despite flying into Durban late on Sunday, he was at rehab training first thing on Monday morning,” the coach said. “He hasn’t shown any signs of fatigue.”
At centre, Williams made the most of his opportunities earlier in the Currie Cup before the return of Whitehead, and deserves another opportunity.
“He did really well in the games he played,” said Everitt.
“He was one of the top performers in the backline in those games. On the other hand, Louis has done exceptionally well, playing out of position at 13.
“It is a nice opportunity for him to have a break and it’s also good that we can have a look at other combinations that may carry the can for us in the future.” - The Star