Akker van der Merwe is back for the Sharks after following his suspension. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

DURBAN – Sharks coach Robert du Preez is banking on the return of some heavy artillery among the forwards to turn around his team’s Super Rugby fortunes.

Rugged lock Ruan Botha is back from a foot injury, industrious hooker Akker van der Merwe has served his suspension for a punch-up with Bulls opposite number Schalk Brits, while lock Tyler Paul and burly flank Jean-Luc du Preez last week made comebacks from injury off the bench and are primed to start against the Waratahs on Saturday.

With respect to the second row of Hyron Andrews and youngster Ruben van Heeden, their combination has been on the light side and the return of the combative Botha and Paul will give the pack a robust edge. Paul, who is also comfortable in the back row, was arguably the Sharks’ best player in the Currie Cup last year and he has been missed by the Sharks since picking up a shoulder injury early this season.

“It is great to have all these guys coming back,” Du Preez said from Sydney. “We will have a strong team for this match with a solid bench backing it up.

“It is a must-win game for us. There has been a lot of disappointment at us losing at home, so the tour has come at the right time for us. Touring is one of the perks of the job, our spirits have picked up and we have trained with a lot of energy. The guys are keen to get this one under the belt and get our campaign back on track. The SA conference is still wide open.”

Robert du Preez says Saturday’s match against the Waratahs is a must win for this team. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix
Robert du Preez says Saturday’s match against the Waratahs is a must win for this team. Photo: Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Du Preez was asked if he was considering resting out-of-form flyhalf Rob du Preez, and his answer suggested there might be a change at No 10.

“We are definitely looking at some rotation,” the coach said. “Quite a few players have had a lot of games. We rested Makazole Mapimpi last week and the previous week it was the Beast (Tendai Mtawarira) and Coenie Oosthuizen that got a break. Now there are other guys that need to be managed and we will do it both in practice and in game time.

“The guys that have been coming back from injury are building towards their best form. Philip van der Walt is getting there. He made 17 tackles against the Reds in a busy performance. Jean-Luc had a solid outing, as did Tyler.

All these guys are going to get better the more they play.”


The Mercury

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