Siya Kolisi set to wear the No 6 for Sharks ... when fit and firing
DURBAN - Having bagged one of the biggest names in rugby, the Sharks now have the happy headache of how to reconstruct their loose trio once Siya Kolisi is fully fit and ready to rumble.
Kolisi, once properly conditioned after an unfortunate last 12 months of hardly playing (for various reasons), will be a natural inclusion in the starting 15, but where and at whose cost?
When the Sharks were topping Super Rugby last March, playing superb rugby, they had a perfectly synced loose trio, with a revitalised Sikhumbuzo Notshe at No 8, the pugnacious Tyler Paul on the blindside flank, and James Venter was the fetcher.
By the time of last month’s Currie Cup final, only Notshe was still starting, with Paul having left for Japan when SA Rugby opened a free transfer window during hard lockdown, while Venter last year suffered a bad ankle injury, Covid-19, and then had to watch young upstart Dylan Richardson play his socks off at openside flank.
In that agonising defeat to the Bulls, the blindside flank was Henco Venter, who like namesake James, did not have a lot of game time last year for various reasons but towards the end of the Currie Cup the former Free Stater came seriously good.
Other loose forwards used with promise by coach Sean Everitt were Thembelani Bholi, the big blindsider that joined from the Southern Kings and who had some barnstorming games, and SA Under-21 star Phepsi Buthelezi, who can play No 8 as well as flank.
Kolisi, who is also comfortable playing No 8, at yesterday’s press conference described himself as an openside flank that relished carrying the ball but “is not a fetcher”.
Everitt, though, has said the style of counter-attacking rugby, which thrives on turnover ball, requires a fetcher in the mould of Venter and Richardson.
Given how well Notshe has played this year at No 8 – and Kolisi yesterday pointed out how successful a former fellow Stormer had done in relocating to Durban – it is unlikely that Kolisi will be deployed in that position.
Kolisi said: “It’s going to be a fight for all of us because there are amazing loose forwards here. What I did in the past doesn’t matter because it’s a new beginning for me and I have to prove myself again.
“I’m excited to compete for positions and play alongside guys like Notshe while fitting into the Sharks’ style of play.
“I love the style of play. They play rugby and move the ball around. They have strong carriers and that suits me. It is my strength. I am an openside flanker but not a fetcher, I can add with ball carrying, and I am not scared to do the hard work, clean the rucks, and not be seen … working backward and forwards. I am willing to do my part but feel strongly that I can contribute with the ball in hand.”
That sounds to me like a description of No 7 flanker, and it was exactly what Tyler Paul did so effectively last year.
But in this British and Irish Lions year, I think we will see the Sharks aligning with the Boks, and Kolisi will continue at 6, with Notshe at 8 and Henco Venter at 7.