Sharks looking to gain ground in the Currie Cup
DURBAN - The cancellation of the Blue Bulls versus Griquas game that was to be played tonight will give the chasing pack an opportunity to make ground on the log-leading Bulls, a fact certainly not lost on Sharks coach Sean Everitt.
The Sharks’ enduring refrain is that they are a performance-driven team, as opposed to a results-driven one, but obviously Everitt also has an eye on the Currie Cup standings, which currently has the Bulls five points ahead of the Sharks as the latter go into their big match against the Golden Lions at Ellis Park tomorrow.
“What we are saying when we say we are driving performance is that we aim to play our absolute best each weekend, and we are also driving consistency in our performance,” Everitt said. “But yes, we have to be real here ... this is a vital game as far as log points are concerned.”
With the Bulls game called off, each team receives two log points whereas the Pretoria-based team would have backed themselves to take four possibly five out of the Griquas match.
“The challenge to the team is that we have three very tough games over a very short period — it is the first time our guys will be playing over the Christmas festive season,” Everitt said. “So from a log perspective, every point is vital and in the context of the run-in (to the semi-finals) this game against the Lions is going to be crucial for us.”
The Sharks are, in fact, fortunate to be playing the Lions after suffering another Covid-19 outbreak that has robbed them of 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,” Everitt said. “Ruben was playing really good rugby, as was Hyron (he stole crucial lineouts 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. 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-19), 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.
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.