DURBAN – Last week, the Sharks were bristling with Beastly sentiment when they blew the Lions off the Ellis Park turf, but what is going to blow their hair back this week against the Jaguares at Kings Park?
That was a question put to coach Robert du Preez at yesterday’s team announcement, and in answering, he confirmed it had been a hot topic of discussion this week at the Shark Tank.
In short, quality teams back up good performances, and the Sharks have not been doing that for seasons, never mind matches.
Inconsistency has been a swear word too long associated with the Sharks.
“Last week there was a lot of emotion around The Beast’s (Tendai Mtawarira) milestone, but what now? It is a good question,” Du Preez said.
“The boys really wanted to play for Beastie, and they certainly did, leaving us with a tough act to follow.
“Well, we’ve revisited one of our pre-season goals, that of winning all of our home games.
“But we have already lost two (to the Stormers and Bulls), so it is a big motivational factor for us to sort that out and win this home game – not only for our fans, but also because we need to keep the continuity going.”
Du Preez might have added that beating the Jaguares in Durban this week is also crucial to his team’s long-term ambitions in the competition.
After Saturday’s game, the Sharks have another home fixture against the Reds, and then their next games are in Sydney, Christchurch and Hamilton.
There are no ‘gimmes’ there, so yes, it’s best the Sharks bank their home games…
And for this one, the “Beast factor” is completely removed from the equation. Mtawarira and Coenie Oosthuizen are both out of the squad, as per the Springbok player management schedule, meaning the Sharks have a new front row, but one that will not be short of endeavour.
Congratulations to #OurSharks Legend, @Beast_TM on reaching 157 Vodacom @SuperRugby caps and becoming the most capped South African Super Rugby player in history!#OurSharksForever pic.twitter.com/8Ew38veT3m— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) April 6, 2019
In comes Thomas “The Tank” du Toit and Juan Schoeman, both of them big fellows on a mission.
“This rest for Coenie and Beast was planned long ago, and the boys coming have been waiting for this massive opportunity, they knew it was coming,” Du Preez said.
“They have been training really hard, and this opportunity is a reward. And Kerron van Vuuren remains between them at hooker, and we have seen what fine form he is in.”
The only other change to the starting team is at No 7, where there is the much-anticipated return of Philip van der Walt (from injury), plus the big boost of Jean-Luc du Preez backing him off the bench, with Jacques Vermeulen dropping out of the match-day squad.
Van der Walt has had two cameos off the bench in his return from an off-season thigh problem, and Du Preez will be seeing his first action of the year after he came back from a stint in England in December with a groin injury.
“It is fantastic to have these guys back, and it ties in with Jacques needing a rest. The timing is perfect,” Du Preez said.
“Jean-Luc is very excited to play. We’re looking at 20 or 25 minutes, depending on how he behaves!”
15 Curwin Bosch 14 Lwazi Mvovo 13 Lukhanyo Am 12 André Esterhuizen 11 Makazole Mapimpi 10 Rob du Preez 9 Louis Schreuder (captain) 8 Dan du Preez 7 Philip van der Walt 6 Luke Stringer 5 Hyron Andrews 4 Ruben van Heerden 3 Thomas du Toit 2 Kerron van Vuuren 1 Juan Schoeman.
Bench: 16 Fez Mbatha 17 Mzamo Majola 18 John-Hubert Meyer 19 JJ van der Mescht 20 Jean-Luc du Preez 21 Grant Williams 22 Kobus van Wyk 23 Aphelele Fassi.@MikeGreenaway67