DURBAN - There will be options galore for Sharks coach Robert du Preez when he selects his match 23 for Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Golden Lions at Kings Park (2.30pm kickoff).
It is all coming together nicely for Du Preez at the business end of the competition, and with a number of players having returned from injury over the last fortnight, the coach has the resources to go all the way in the competition.
The Sharks will also take momentum into the semi after an impressive performance in Kimberley at the weekend where they scored seven very good tries in winning 41-21. Six of those tries went to the backs, who made the most of good possession provided by the forwards.
The pack had arguably their best performance of the Currie Cup thus far, and they will need to take that form into the semi-final considering the Lions pack could well be boosted by key Springboks Malcolm Marx, Warren Whiteley and Franco Mostert, none of whom played in the Lions’ win over the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday but are now rumoured to be available.
Coach Du Preez faces some interesting selection posers in his own pack, particularly the front row where he has two Bok tightheads in Coenie Oosthuizen and Thomas du Toit, and two Bok hookers in Akker van der Merwe and Chiliboy Ralepelle.
Oosthuizen is still making his way back from injury so Du Toit will likely get the nod there, but at hooker it is a bit more difficult. Ralepelle is the captain but at the weekend Van der Merwe made the most of his rare start and played a blinder, so it will be difficult for the coach to drop the 27-year-old back to the bench.
There are also riches at loose forward. Tyler Paul was man of the match in Kimberley, Jacques Vermeulen had an exceptional game and now the Du Preez twins (Jean-Luc and Dan) are both fit. One way of getting them all on the park at the same time would be for Paul to revert to lock, the position he played in Super Rugby.
In the backline we will see Robert du Preez return at flyhalf, Marius Louw at No 12 and Curwin Bosch at fullback. The latter probably did not do enough against Griquas to state a meaningful case for permanent selection at 10 although, to be fair, it was his first game at flyhalf since last year’s Currie Cup final.
There is an abundance of quality in the back three. While it is hard to see past the selection of Lwazi Mvovo and Sbu Nkosi in the starting line-up, there was a great cameo from Leolin Zas against Griquas, and Kobus van Wyk, who was a late withdrawal from the team, has been in fine form this season. Aphelele Fassi has not been too shabby either, his incredible botching of a try when over the line in Kimberley notwithstanding.
On the subject of wings, Bok star Aphiwe Dyantyi will almost certainly be back for the Lions. So, all in all, both teams are rapidly assuming Super Rugby strength which means we have a crackerjack semi-final in prospect.