DURBAN - Curwin Bosch will start at flyhalf for the Sharks in their Currie Cup match against Griquas in Kimberley tomorrow (3pm kickoff), the first time he will be starting in that position since last year’s final.
Regular flyhalf Robert du Preez is being trialled at No 12, with burly crash ball centre Marius Louw dropping to the bench. Bosch’s promotion to No 10 means exciting youngster Aphelele Fassi gets a start at 15. There are five changes in all to the run-on team that copped 50 from Western Province two weeks ago and the shake-up gives the Sharks an invigorated look.
While some of the changes have a rotational feel about them, notably those to the front row, this line-up will surely prevail into the semi-finals should the Sharks rock in Kimberley.
The selection of the multi-skilled Bosch at No 10 could well enliven a potentially lethal Sharks backline that also has Springbok Sbu Nkosi back on the right wing after injury. Another Bok, the charismatic Coenie Oosthuizen, will start his first match since his catastrophic injury in the second minute of the Test against Ireland in Dublin last November.
It took almost 11 months of toil before Oosthuizen made his comeback off the bench for the Sharks against the Golden Lions last month. And alongside him tomorrow will be another highly popular character in the inimitable Akker van der Merwe, who gets his first start of the Currie Cup, with regular captain and hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle playing off the bench.
That means the Sharks have a new captain, with experienced scrumhalf Louis Schreuder having been entrusted with the reins. The Sharks’ impressive front-row depth means two Springboks have been exchanged for another two Boks, with Thomas du Toit making way for Oosthuizen and Ralepelle for Van der Merwe.
We caught up with #OurSharks Prop, @TankduToit, ahead of the @CellC Sharks game this weekend. He is looking forward to this physical clash against an unpredictable Tafel Lager @GriquasRugby team that always poses a threat on home ground. #GRIvSHA #OurSharksForever pic.twitter.com/px3zZpC70G
The Sharks indeed have a powerful bench, with further good news in the form of Jean-Luc du Preez, who is making his comeback following two months of recuperation from groin surgery. There is also a brand new face among the replacements in the youngster Dick Muir describes as “the man mountain”, JJ van der Mescht, one of the stars of this year’s unbeaten Sharks Under-19 side.
The 19-year-old Van der Mescht was still at Glenwood High last year and is colossal indeed - two metres tall, 130kgs and he wears a size 16 boot. Coach Robert du Preez said he had no hesitation in selecting the bulldozer, who replaces the injured Ruben van Heerden.
“JJ is a guy with huge talent, we believe he can handle the Currie Cup,” Du Preez said. “He is big and aggressive, he has all the talent in the world and we will give him a good run and see what he can do.”
Finally, how does Schreuder feel about captaining the Sharks? “Nothing really changes for me ... the only thing is that I can now talk to the referee without being penalised,” Schreuder quipped before adding seriously, “Let’s be honest, Kimberley is not the easiest trip, all the teams have noted that. The best thing is to focus inwardly, and not worry about them... We are used to travel and we must just handle it.”