DURBAN – The Sharks team selected to play Griquas at Jonsson Kings Park on Friday night does not look a heck of a lot different to the side that featured in the Super Rugby play-offs a few weeks ago.
A lot has been said about the continuity Griquas will enjoy in the Currie Cup having just won the SuperSport Challenge but the Sharks, too, have reassuring continuity from the side that lost to the Brumbies in Canberra, and it is only on the bench that we see the youth that is coming through the ranks at the Sharks.
Ten players in the starting line-up started against the Brumbies, with a total of 13 from the match-day 23 that chilly night in the Australian capital.
One big name that was not part of the recently ended Super Rugby is JP Pietersen but he will not be in his old No 11 jersey, with coach Sean Everitt bringing his experience closer to the action at outside centre.
Pietersen, 32, played 13 for the Sharks on occasions before his move overseas. Alongside him in the midfield is co-captain Jeremy Ward, who has been recognised by his coach for his strong leadership qualities.
“I am so excited, it is a huge responsibility,” the 23-year-old said. “I understand and embrace that but it is also an opportunity for me as a young leader to learn from Tera (Mtembu, the other co-captain), and also to have a new role in the team.
I don’t believe you need a leadership title to be a leader in the team, so the challenge for all of us is to enhance leadership in the team, and Tera and I plan on doing that. It is about empowering people to play their natural game.”
Everitt explained that his decision to have co-captains is part of the goal of using the Currie Cup to grow individuals and the squad as a whole.
“We looked at the make-up of the squad and I thought this was the perfect opportunity to develop a guy like Jeremy who has shown outstanding leadership qualities,” Everitt said. “With the co-captaincy, it just takes the pressure off Jeremy with him having Tera to lean on.
“And obviously Tera is coming back from injury, so there will be times when we will be giving Jeremy the reins. It is more to grow leadership in the group than to have one experienced leader.”
On the subject of experience, Coenie Oosthuizen starts at tighthead as his move to the Sale Sharks will only happen after the Currie Cup. Having an old campaigner anchoring the scrum is a significant boost for Everitt.
“Coenie has vast experience, he has played a number of games for South Africa and brings leadership and expertise in that position,” Everitt said. “Games are normally won in the tight five, so to have strength and experience in the No 3 jersey is very important.
“Playing in the Currie Cup also gives Coenie an opportunity to push for World Cup inclusion. I have had a long chat to him about where he is and where he wants to go and he certainly wants to finish his career at the Sharks on a high.”
The Sharks side is:
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 JP Pietersen, 12 Jeremy Ward (c-c), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Tera Mtembu (c-c), 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Phendulani Buthelezi, 21 Sanele Nohamba, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Rhyno Smith.@MikeGreenaway67