DURBAN - The Sharks’ trip to Nelspruit on Friday night will be their toughest encounter of the Currie Cup season so far, according to coach Robert du Preez, who accordingly picked his strongest possible side for the match against the Pumas.
Du Preez had no hesitation in restoring Curwin Bosch at flyhalf for the match after the youngster’s sojourn at the Boks.
Last week’s 10, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, drops to the Sharks U21 side that will play against the Leopards (his former team) at the weekend. In a forced change at fullback, injured Inny Radebe is replaced by Garth April.
With Radebe dropping out because of the recurrence of a knee problem, there is an opportunity off the bench for the lively Rhyno Smith, who has been a handful with his counter-attacks from the back.
In the forwards, Ross Geldenhuys returns at tighthead prop from a rotational rest for John-Hubert Meyer. That sole change to the forwards means former Lion Akker van der Merwe continues at hooker ahead of Franco Marais.
“Akker deserves another chance (after making his run-on debut against the Cheetahs last week),” Du Preez said. “He has fitted in really well. It is great to have two hookers of the calibre of Franco and Akker in the set-up.”
Du Preez said that Bosch had returned to Durban full of confidence after spending time with the Boks, even though he was not picked to go overseas with the national squad.
“Curwin has slotted in like he has never been away. He understands the bigger Bok picture (and when he will get his chance at that level),” Du Preez said. “It is good to have him back. I think that exposure at the Boks has meant a lot to him.
"We tend to underestimate how much it means to the young guys when they spend time with the Boks. When they come back you can see they how they have been boosted.”
It seems Du Preez has settled on former Stormer Louis Schreuder as his starting scrumhalf ahead of Cameron Wright and Michael Claassens.
“Louis had a very good Super Rugby season for the Kings and has a good pedigree having been in the Bok picture at one stage,” the coach said. “We have good scrumhalves. Cameron has had a bit of an injury niggle of late, but when he has played I have been impressed, and Michael is a stalwart (and mentor to the other two).”
Du Preez said his team was gearing up for a major battle at the Mbombela Stadium on Friday afternoon (5pm kick-off).
“I honestly think this is going to be our hardest game to date,” Du Preez said. “They have an abrasive pack of forwards and we are going to have to deal with that. Nelspruit on a Friday afternoon is a tough task, and we are going to have to be up to it.”