Sharks hoping different looking tight five can perform against Lions
DURBAN - While the Sharks will be grateful that they are able to put a team on the field against the Lions tomorrow following another Covid-19 outbreak, they are a touch aggrieved that they will be without key tight forwards in Ruben van Heerden and Dan Jooste.
And Van Heerden’s long-standing second-row partner, Hyron Andrews is out of the fixture because of a family bereavement while, as expected, Thomas du Toit is out for two to four weeks with a rib injury.
It means the Sharks have a very different looking tight five to the one that more than stood up to the Bulls last week.
“It is always going to be a disruption if you lose players of that quality,” coach Sean Everitt admitted. “Ruben was playing really good rugby, as was Hyron (he stole crucial line-outs against the Bulls),and obviously Thomas (at tighthead) is important and I thought Dan Jooste was outstanding last week.
“But while it is a disruption I think the guys coming in to replace them are top quality,” Everitt continued. “I am talking about a guy like JJ van der Mescht (in for Van Heerden), who has had game time both at No 4 lock and on the blindside flank (against the Pumas, the last time the Sharks were rocked by Covid), so that’s quite smooth.
“And it is exciting for young Aston Fortuin to come in (for Andrews) — we did bring him in as a back-up for Hyron (from the Southern Kings) so it is great for him to get an opportunity …”
At hooker, Everitt is bringing in like for like in the established Kerron van Vuuren —the muscular 25-year-old with a penchant for scoring maul tries — for Jooste.
“Obviously we know what we have in Kerron and what he has done recently,” the coach said. “And Michael Kumbirai played really well when came on for Thomas against the Bulls.
“We would have preferred those (missing) guys to be playing but the flip side is there are nice opportunities for the guys coming in …”
The backline that played the Bulls is unscathed but the bench has a host of newcomers. Returning to the match-23 and playing off the bench are front row replacements in Fez Mbatha, Mzamo Majola and John Hubert-Meyer, while loose forward James Venter is also back after missing recent action.
Everitt has retained the 6/2 split on the bench in favour of the forwards and in an acknowledgement of another big forward battle against the powerful Lions pack.
“We wanted to reward the team for the good performance against the Bulls but obviously due to the Covid circumstances we have not been able to do that,” Everitt explained. “We have gone for continuity where possible. We are also taking into account the threat from the Lions — the changes give us fresh legs for the second half of both the first half and the second half … that is when they score most of their points.”
Sharks team: 15 Manie Libbok 14 Sbu Nkosi 13 Lukhanyo Am 12 Marius Louw 11 Yaw Penxe 10 Curwin Bosch 9 Sanele Nohamba 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe 7 Henco Venter 6 Dylan Richardson 5 Ashton Fortuin 4 JJ van der Mescht 3 Michael Kumberai 2 Kerron van Vuuren 1 Ox Nche.
Substitutes: Fez Mbatha, Mzamo Majola, John-Hubert Meyer, Thembelani Bholi, James Venter, Phepsi Buthelezi, Jaden Hendrikse, Jeremy Ward.