DURBAN – The Rugby Championship drew to a close on a weekend where no Currie Cup action was on offer, and what that means for the teams heading into the final round of the regular season is that there will be an influx of talent available.
For the Sharks, the question is how does coach Robert du Preez go about utilising his Springbok stars?
There has been no real issues in the Sharks’ squad when it comes to ability, rather the issue have all been team-based and centre around the inability to take all their chances - and perhaps even complacency in a watered-down tournament.
The Sharks have a relatively easy game to round out the regular season, as they face the Griquas who have just the one win their their name. However, it is a game on the dry, hard pitches of Kimberley.
This match is a good opportunity for players who took a bye recently to work their way back to their best, and to reintroduce a few star players and get the team cohesion going before the semifinals.
The biggest question will be how Du Preez goes about using Andre Esterhuizen, should the centre be available. Esterhuizen enjoyed a stint in Japan last year at this time, but his Bok call-up may see him staying put and playing some Currie Cup.
Marius Louw has been infallible at No 12, but if they are looking for another big running centre, Esterhuizen is a bit of a step up in a similar mould to Louw.
The Sharks will also have an embarrassment of front row riches with Thomas du Toit’s attention no longer divided between the Boks and the Sharks - although he was left out of the home leg of the rugby championship.
Beast Mtawarira also returns to Durban, but as a contracted Springbok should sit out of the Currie Cup. That being said, he was used far less towards the end of the Championship and may well benefit from a bit of game time.
Sbu Nkosi will also be fully focused on the Boks after being dropped late for the home leg of the Championship. The winger has returned from injury and will surely be raring to get back to full fitness ahead of the end of year tour.