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More than log points at stake in derby, says Sharks skipper

Super Rugby
DURBAN - It was a throwaway line from Sharks captain Philip van der Walt, but it could also have been a strong hint that the mystifyingly-timed Springbok squad announcement midweek could have an impact on tomorrow’s big Super Rugby derby between the Sharks and the Stormers at Kings Park.

Usually these Bok squad announcements are made after the completion of a weekend’s Super Rugby games but South Africa’s players go into the weekend’s games knowing who is chosen and who is not.

Some players are seriously miffed and others are deliriously happy and perhaps not that keen on throwing themselves into mortal combat should they get injured before the series against France.

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Philp van der Walt says some players will have points to prove in Saturday's match against the Stormers. Photo: Howard Cleland

Van der Walt, after being asked about what a crack-a-jack game this derby could be, said: “Yes, both teams have a stated intent to play running rugby which suggests an entertaining spectacle, but there is also the timing of this game being a few days after the announcement of the Springbok and SA 'A' squads, and that leaves players in contrasting moods.”

The well-spoken Van der Walt, who has a BCom degree and a post-graduate diploma in education from the University of Bloemfontein, suggested some players were chuffed and others were disappointed.

“We have players who want to show they are worthy of their inclusion in the Bok squad and others who want to prove a point (because of their exclusion),” Van der Walt said.

The flanker could be one of the discontents in question, and certainly a feisty scrumhalf in Cobus Reinach will want to prove that he is the best scrumhalf in South Africa, despite not making either national squads (even if he has pledged his future to the Sale Sharks in England).

Then there are the Du Preez brothers, who will feel they have played well enough to be Boks, flanker Jean-Luc in particular (Daniel has had his share of time out with injury).

The three Sharks locks in Ruan Botha (to be fair he is in the SA 'A' squad) , Etienne Oosthuizen and Stephan Lewies will feel they have an argument given that the Sharks have the best line-out of all 18 teams in Super Rugby.

The Sharks players, perhaps more than the Stormers, have reason to be aggrieved by the unveiling of those two squads.

“But apart from some of our guys who want to excel more then ever, this is a game we need to win to keep in touch with a top-eight finish on the Super Rugby log,” Van der Walt said.

The Sharks are out of touch with the Lions in their Conference but can still be overhauled by the Jaguares, while the Sharks have the carrot of possibly finishing seventh on the ultimate log and thus probably play the Lions in Johannesburg rather than the Crusaders in Christchurch.

But they have to win all of their three remaining games, all home derbies - against the Stormers, Bulls and Lions.

“Derbies always have a personal nature to them, then we have players who want to prove their worth for whatever reason, plus the need for both the Sharks and the Stormers to build good form ahead of the play-offs, so it really is going to be a fantastic game of rugby. I think it is going to be one of the games of the season.”

Coach Robert du Preez has made just one change to the Sharks side that beat the Sunwolves last week, bringing back tighthead Coenie Oosthuizen for Lourens Adriaanse after the former had a mandatory break according to the agreement between the franchises and Saru regarding contracted springboks.

That means a Springbok in The Beast is on the bench behind SA 'A' prop Thomas du Toit.

Coach Du Preez explained that Du Toit’s form against the Sunwolves had to be rewarded.

“I said to the guys before the Sunwolves game that I needed to stick to certain combinations going forward and that there would be reward for the players that did well in Singapore,” Du Preez said.

The Mercury

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