DURBAN - In what is shaping up to be one of the prime Currie Cup clashes so far this season, a Western Province team chasing their third win a row host a confident Sharks team that is looking for its fifth consecutive win.
For the Sharks there is the carrot of a victory in Cape Town pushing them to the top of the Currie Cup log. It will be irrelevant to both teams that the Sharks have won three of their last five Currie Cup matches in Cape Town, which includes the 2013 Currie Cup final.
It is a new year and a new competition and the Sharks will have to do without Garth April, who for the second time in two seasons has been stood down for disciplinary reasons.
The troubled 26 year-old has breached team protocols (regarding discipline), according to coach Robert du Preez and is replaced at fullback by Inny Radebe, the flyhalf that has just recovered from long-term injury.
“It is not the first time it has happened with Garth and I had a meeting with the leadership group of players and we jointly agreed that he will not participate this weekend,” Du Preez said.
“We have strong stances on work ethic, team work and respect, and (his suspension) will be on-going until he is prepared to come and talk to the team and me. It is very disappointing and unacceptable.”
Apart from the disciplinary-enforced change at fullback, the Sharks have made six other changes to the side that beat the Lions in their last fixture, which concluded a profitable 15 points from three games against Griquas, the Bulls and the Lions in just over a week. It does not get much better than that.
In other changes to the backline, wing Kobus van Wyk and outside centre Jeremy Ward are back from injury and start ahead of Odwa Ndungane and Marius Louw respectively, while at scrumhalf Louis Schreuder is preferred ahead of Cameron Wright.
Schreuder was at the Kings earlier this year while Wright returns to Durban after a stint at Montpellier.
In the forwards, prop Thomas du Toit has not recovered from the ankle injury that forced him from the field against the Lions while flank Keegan Daniel is sidelined by a shoulder problem, and their places are filled by Juan Schoeman and Jean Droste.
Former Kings man Tyler Paul shifts from lock to flank, with Droste playing No 4.
The Currie Cup has a long way to go but Du Preez said that the last four wins had been hugely uplifting for his team.
“You can’t buy belief and character, and we have that, and now we must keep the momentum going,” the coach said.