DURBAN – Sharks coach Robert du Preez has courted controversy by promoting his out-of-form son Robert to the flyhalf position for tomorrow’s match against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires, replacing in-form Curwin Bosch, while discarding red-hot full-back Aphelele Fassi.
Du Preez’s stubborn stance on the issue of Bosch (and Fassi) is turning up the heat on the Board of the Sharks to take meaningful action against a coach whose continued demotion of two black players in Bosch and Fassi will be construed as anti-transformation.
It is known that many Sharks players are miffed with the treatment of these players. It is understood Du Preez wanted to start with his son last week against the Hurricanes but the leadership group in the squad strongly objected and the coach backed down.
But the players have not had similar joy this week. Fassi makes way for Bosch at full-back and is relegated to the bench, as he has been for the ’ last five games which have seen Rob du Preez brought on in the second half at 10, with Bosch moving to full-back.
The issue with the selection of Du Preez at flyhalf is that it has no basis. It is not as if he has been in such good form that he could not be ignored and at the same time Bosch has been shaky and thus warrants demotion.
In fact the opposite has been there for all to see. Bosch has been brilliant since he replaced Du Preez for the Sharks’ opening tour match, against the Waratahs, a game which the Sharks won and in which Bosch produced a Man of the Match performance.
The backdrop to that match was two dreadful Sharks performances at Jonsson Kings Park, against the Jaguares and Reds, in which flyhalf Du Preez was a ghost of the player he had been for periods in 2018 and particularly when he played so well for Western Province.
Coach Du Preez, chastened by what he called “cockroach comments” from supporters regarding him playing his fatigued son (he started every Sharks game last season and then played for Sale Sharks in the off season), grudgingly gave Bosch his chance, and the 21-year-old seized it with gusto.
The coach’s insistence on making the change at flyhalf in the last five games has incurred widespread criticism. SuperSport analysts, including Nick Mallett, Joel Stransky, Jean de Villiers and the especially miffed Odwa Ndungane, expressed their dismay.
And not just at the ill treatment of Bosch. The actual pawn in this unfortunate business is Fassi, who is taken off when he is in full flight at full-back, surely damaging the youngster’s confidence.
In a nutshell, what has been happening is this: Bosch gets moved away from the action after having commandingly directed play at flyhalf; Fassi, one of the Sharks’ best attacking players, gets moved to the bench; and a player struggling with confidence and form is thrust into the hot seat.
It makes no sense and leaves Sharks supporters asking: “Why? Why? Why?”
In other changes, Tyler Paul comes in for flank Jean-Luc du Preez, who is nursing an MCL niggle, and Hyron Andrews starts at No 4 lock in a straight swop with Ruben van Heerden, who also takes up position on the bench.
Among the reserves, centre Jeremy Ward and scrum-half Zee Mkhabela are back in the match 23 in place of Kobus van Wyk and Cameron Wright.
The Sharks team is:
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (c), 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Subs: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Aphelele Fassi.