Veteran JP Pietersen makes way for André Esterhuizen, with Jeremy Ward shifting to No 13 and Esterhuizen back in his customary role at 12. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

DURBAN – Sharks coach Sean Everitt had no hesitation in installing returning Springboks Thomas du Toit and André Esterhuizen into his starting line-up for Saturday’s Currie Cup match against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria.

In the case of prop Du Toit, Everitt is optimistic that his combination with another Bok in Coenie Oposthuizen and combative hooker Kerron van Vuuren will give the visitors an edge upfront, an area where the Bulls have been poor in the Currie Cup.

And in the case of Esterhuizen, Everitt believes the backline defence will be ratcheted up by the presence of prime Klerksdorp beef.

“I believe that returning Boks deserve to start,” Everitt said.

“You don’t come back from the Boks a worse player, and they need to be rewarded with starts. Also, they are still in the mix for the World Cup and need to have game time to stay sharp.”

Interestingly, veteran JP Pietersen makes way for Esterhuizen, with Jeremy Ward shifting to No 13 and Esterhuizen back in his customary role at 12.

It is the right call as Pietersen – who drops to the bench – is some way off his old self, and Ward has been in exceptional form.

“Jeremy has played most of his rugby at the Sharks at No 13, so that shift doesn’t bother me at all. And when you get the ball in the phases, the jobs of the No 12 and 13 are very similar,” Everitt said.

“And with André at inside centre, (flyhalf) Boeta Chamberlain has a huge amount of experience next to him.

“André is obviously very strong on defence and can be dominant in that department, so we are very happy to have him back.”

Regarding the front row, Everitt said: “Coenie has been playing really well, and with Thomas and Kerron up there with him, that front row can be intimidating.

“In saying that, I think Lizo Gqoboka (back from the Boks) will add a lot to the Bulls. They have struggled in that department over the campaign, so they will be looking to him to fix their front-row issues.

“With Coenie and Thomas there, we expect parity at the very least, and hopefully dominance.”

The Bulls go into the match under the threat of a relegation/playoff match (should they lose), so the Sharks have to brace themselves for war.

“Historically, the Bulls are a physical side anyway, plus they have it all to play for on Saturday which makes them very dangerous,” Everitt said.

“We must stick to our structures and show composure. If we can look after them in the first 20 minutes, it will do us well.

“We know what is coming, so we have to (be) very solid in defence.

“Defence has been our strength in this campaign, so we obviously we need to keep that up, and if we defend well, there will be opportunities with ball in hand.”

Sharks Team

15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward (co-captain), 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Boeta Chamberlain, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Tera Mtembu (co-captain), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Phepsi Buthelezi, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Thomas du Toit.

Replacements: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Andisa Ntsila, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Rhyno Smith, 23 JP Pietersen.


The Mercury

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