DURBAN – It won’t get easier for a Sharks team that is winless against SA opposition this year when they travel to a rejuvenated Lions team at Ellis Park on Friday, a short turnaround indeed from the defeat at the weekend to the Bulls.
Coach Robert du Preez has chosen to keep the ship as steady as possible by making only two changes to the side, one of them forced and one an overdue start for an almost forgotten Springbok.
Regarding the former change, Kerron van Vuuren replaces suspended Akker van der Merwe while the latter one sees Curwin Bosch at last back in the starting line-up, the first time this season, but it is not at flyhalf but at fullback.
Many anticipated Bosch coming in for out-of-form Rob du Preez but the coach has elected to give him another chance. Bosch replaces youngster Aphelele Fassi, who reverts to the bench.
Du Preez agreed that Bosch’s first start for the Sharks since last year’s Currie Cup was overdue.
“In the beginning of the year Curwin had a couple of niggles and a concussion, so he never got going early on. But I thought he did really well when he came on against the Bulls.
It was put to the coach that a disaffected Bosch was in talks with the Stormers with a view to moving to the Cape but he gave this speculation short shrift.
“Rumours do not interest me at all,” he said. My job is to do everything in my power to make the team win, I can’t be bothered with sideshows.”
Du Preez feels the team does not need a shake up because the performance against the Bulls was a strong one, in his estimation.
“We have looked at our game and we are happy with how we are playing. Obviously we couldn’t get the win in the end but we dominated all the stats and there was some great stuff from the guys. We take some fantastic positives out of that game and that will give us momentum into the Lions match.”
The Sharks need all the positives they can get considering that their three losses so far in the competition have been against the Bulls (twice) and the Stormers and now they are away to a fourth SA team. Incidentally, the Sharks’ wins have been against overseas teams in the Sunwolves, Blues and Rebels.
Du Preez says he feels a win in a local derby is as close as the score lines have been in the derbies.
“The first game against the Bulls we got outplayed,” Du Preez acknowledged. “Against the Stormers we lost the physical battle and then this latest game against the Bulls we played some outstanding rugby.”
The venture into the Lions’ den will mark the 157th Super Rugby cap for Sharks talisman Tendai Mtawarira and The Beast reckons a win will be more important to him than the record as the most capped South African Super Rugby player.
“My first Super Rugby match was against the Waratahs in 2007 when then coach Dick Muir put me on the bench, we won the game and then went on to play in the final,” Mtawarira said.
“I never thought how far I would go. It’s mind boggling to now realise I have played so many games. I just thought that I had to improve in each game; each game was an opportunity to play my heart out. Suddenly it was 50, then 100, now 157. But I can honestly say that beating the Lions on Friday night is the only thing that matters to me right now.”
The Sharks side is:
15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Lwazi Mvovo, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 André Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Rob du Preez, 9 Louis, Schreuder (c), 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Luke Stringer, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
16 Fez Mbatha, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 JJ van der Mescht, 20 Philip van der Walt, 21 Grant Williams, 22 Kobus van Wyk, 23 Aphelele Fassi.@MikeGreenaway67