DURBAN – The good news for the Sharks and the Springboks is that Coenie Oosthuizen and Sbu Nkosi will make their comeback at Kings Park tomorrow in the Durbanites’ Currie Cup clash with the Lions, 5.15pm kick-off.
The pair will be given 30 minutes or so off the bench, according to Sharks coach Robert du Preez, who also welcomes back Thomas du Toit from the Bok squad. Du Toit is in need of game time and goes straight into the starting line-up at tighthead prop.
For Du Preez it was a week of bounty indeed, with flank Jacques Vermeulen another to report fit after injury. He will also be on the power-packed bench, as will the Sharks’ new signing, lock Ruben van Heerden, who has severed ties with the Bulls.
The 20-year-old former Affies pupil started four matches for the SA Under-20 team last year. He would have seen his Super Rugby path blocked at the Bulls by Boks RG Snyman and Lood de Jager whereas the lock stocks at the Sharks have been thin this year.
Another Springbok to be reinstated in the run-on team is fullback Curwin Bosch. He was benched against the Pumas, with youngster Aphelele Fassi preferred, but for this Lions match the two have been swopped.
For Oosthuizen, it is going to be an emotional return to rugby after 10 months of rehabilitation following the horrific knee injury he suffered in the Boks’ ill-fated Test against Ireland in Dublin last November.
The Sharks have had to fight off efforts by England’s Sale Sharks to sign Oosthuizen, so it will be doubly pleasing for SA rugby fans to see the big fellow take the pitch on Saturday.
Nkosi will be thrilled to be back after injuring his ankle in a Super Rugby match shortly after returning to the Sharks from a sensational series against England.
“It is really exciting for us to have quality players coming back for us,” said Du Preez. “Coenie has been champing at the bit for a while now, he is so eager to play. The plan is to give him 30 minutes off the bench.
“And with Thomas back, we have a player fresh from the thrilling Springbok win over New Zealand ... that adds a lot of energy to the team,” the coach continued. “It is also pleasing to have exciting players like Sbu and Jacques back from injury. And Ruben may be young but he definitely has a big future ahead of him.”
Du Preez said that during last week’s bye, the players worked on their problem of “patience and accuracy in everything we do” but were freshened up for a tough fortnight against the Lions and then WP away.
“This is the business end of the season now, these next two games are going to be massive, especially this one against the Lions after their big loss to Province. We are expecting a backlash.”
The Lions also welcome back a Springbok in Ross Cronje, who not only slots straight back into the starting line-up but also assumes the captaincy, with Dillon Smit making way.
The two other changes are in the front row, where prop Johannes Jonker and hooker Pieter Jansen replace Jacobie Adriaanse and Corné Fourie respectively.