DURBAN – A crippling front-row injury crisis has opened the door for hugely talented youngster Dylan Richardson to make his debut for the Sharks in tomorrow’s Super Rugby derby with the Lions at Jonsson Kings Park.
Richardon, one of the stars of the all-conquering Sharks Under-19 team of 2018, will cover hooker from the bench, despite having played nearly all of his rugby as a loose forward.
The Sharks have been thin on the ground at hooker all season because of the doping allegations against Chiliboy Ralepelle and injuries to Akker van der Merwe and new recruit Craig Burden, while another star of the U19 side, Fez Mbatha, is on duty with the SA U20 team.
Burden has been desperately unlucky with injuries since he resigned with the Sharks in March and is yet to get onto the pitch for his long-awaited comeback following his return from France. He is still out with a bicep problem and Akker is struggling with a shoulder injury he picked up on tour.
The problems at hooker earlier this season saw Kerron van Vuuren thrown in the deep end and the 22-year-old has taken his opportunity brilliantly. There is no reason why it cannot be the same for Richardson, who is only in his second year out of school at Kearsney College.
Coach Robert du Preez said the former SA Schools No 8 was certain to get onto the field for his debut.
“Dylan is an awesome talent and I am very excited to see how he goes on Saturday,” Du Preez said of the stocky 106kg, 1.84m Richardson. “He is very physical and has a technical set to go with that. It is a wonderful opportunity for him.”
There is also a new face at loosehead prop in the form of Mzamo Majola following injuries to Tendai Mtawarira and Thomas du Toit.
In other changes, Ruben van Heerden is back in the second row after missing the Chiefs match where he will partner the in-form Ruan Botha. Hyron Andrews plays off the bench this week.
The @CellC Sharks head coach has named a slightly changed team to play the Emirates @LionsRugbyCo this Saturday afternoon as he welcomes back a couple of players from injury.
Dan du Preez, who was rested against the Chiefs, returns at No 8, with Philip van der Walt moving back to flank and Jacques Vermeulen reverting to the bench. The only change to the backline sees Springbok Andre Esterhuizen back from a rest for Marius Louw at inside centre.
The Sharks go into the match in fourth place on the SA conference, just one point behind the third-placed Lions who, in turn, are just two points adrift of the log-leading Bulls and Jaguares.
“We can still finish top of the Conference,” Du Preez commented. “Three of our remaining games are against teams in our Conference (the Lions, Stormers and Jaguares, with the fourth match next week’s home game against the Hurricanes), so it is in our hands.
“There is a myriad of permutations, it is very hard to figure it out, so we are just taking it one game at a time, looking to beat the Lions and then resetting for the next one.”
15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Louis Schreuder (c), 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Mzamo Majola.
Subs: 16 Dylan Richardson, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Jacques Vermeulen, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Kobus van Wyk.
15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Kwagga Smith (c), 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Johannes Jonker, 2 Jan-Henning Campher, 1 Dylan Smith.