DURBAN – The Currie Cup has changed over the years, especially with the growth and importance of Super Rugby. Most teams in South Africa now use the world’s oldest provincial rugby tournament as a way to introduce some of their youngsters to the big leagues.
That has been the Sharks’ mandate for a while now, and they have seen great success with it, offering up a lot of youngsters who have gone on to play for the Springboks this year, or even advanced to be integral to the Super Rugby system.
Tonight’s game, against the Pumas, at Kings Park, will be another such opportunity for two more Sharks young guns - Aphelele Fassi, and Luke Stringer. Both these players have gotten a taste for Currie Cup rugby with the former making two appearances off the bench, and the latter getting his first cap as a replacement in Bloemfontein last week.
Now, these two players come into the starting line up to try and prove they have what it takes to kick on and add to the Sharks’ squad depth.
“This is an opportunity, Currie Cup is an opportunity for us to blood some youngsters,” coach Robert du Preez explained. “We have always had that mindset. Fassi comes in at fullback this week just on rotational basis. We know what we have in Curwin (Bosch), and he covers us at No 10 and 15, and he will get his chance there with the rolling substitutions as well. It is the same with Luke, we brought him in and Wian Vosloo moves to the bench, and that too is rotation.
“We also want to make sure we keep the continuity going, so when we bring the youngsters in, there is a strong team to support them.”
The Sharks also welcome back Bok hooker Akker van der Merwe who did not travel with the national side for the Australasian leg of the Rugby Championship. He comes in on the bench to add a little more firepower at the expense of the ever-improving Kerron van Vuuren.
“It is great to have guys of that calibre in your set up, having said that, I thought Kerron has done a really good job, really pleased with his progress,” Du Preez added.
The Pumas will be another unique test for the Sharks as, much like last week, they have a far superior team on paper and should not struggle. But the game is not played on paper.
“When the Pumas played against (Western) Province, I thought Province played well, but the scoreline was flattering. The Pumas are a good side, and we are expecting a backlash, they are physical and it is going to be a tough encounter. We have to be spot on with defence against the Pumas, as they are a team that scores tries from turnovers, a lot like what the Cheetahs did to us last week,” Du Preez concluded.
The Sharks team is:
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 John-Hubert Meyer, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle (c), 1 Juan Schoeman
Reserves: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Khutha Mchunu, 18 Andrew Evans, 19 Wian Vosloo, 20 Cameron Wright, 21 Johan Deysel, 22 Curwin Bosch