Sharks hope Ox Nche, Thomas du Toit can destroy Bulls’ scrum
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DURBAN - The Sharks will travel to Pretoria this weekend for a rematch with the Bulls with some key improvements in personnel for a round three Super Rugby Unlocked encounter.
The Durbanites were outplayed for most of their SuperFan Saturday game against Jake White’s team but, in mitigation, they were without a host of first-choice players.
This time coach Sean Everitt can call on an inspirational Springbok in Sbu Nkosi, a vital front-row link in hooker Kerron van Vuuren, a quality signing from the Lions in Madosh Tambwe, exciting fetcher James Venter and, in addition to those fit-again players, Yaw Penxe joined the Sharks two weeks ago from the now defunct Kings.
Penxe was one of the stand-out players in the Springbok Showdown and he gives the Sharks attacking options at either fullback or wing, an area where the Sharks’ depth has been under pressure because of injuries to Aphelele Fassi and Nkosi plus the departure of Makazole Mapimpi for Japan.
Everitt was forced into playing veteran JP Pietersen on the wing against the Lions two weeks ago, and there was also an enticement out of retirement for Lwazi Mvovo, for cover, but the back three depth looks much healthier this week with Nkosi over his sternum injury, Tambwe recovered from a hamstring problem, and Penxe now on board.
Perhaps most significant for the Sharks is the availability of hooker Van Vuuren.
The 25-year-old tore a pectoral muscle in training over two months ago and underwent surgery. He missed the restart of the South African season and was conspicuously missed in the Super Rugby Unlocked opener for the Sharks against the Lions at Jonsson Kings Park, where the lineouts malfunctioned for the home team.
Van Vuuren became a first-choice starter for the Sharks last year when Akker van der Merwe went overseas and Chilliboy Ralepelle was indisposed, and he has grown into an important component of the Sharks’ pack.
The set piece should go better for the Sharks with the return of Van Vuuren, who is a powerful scrummager and a reliable lineout thrower.
Last week, the Sharks went into a second-round bye, and Everitt says this had pros and cons.
“It was probably not ideal from a momentum perspective (the Sharks narrowly beat the Lions in that first match), but the week off gave us the chance to get some extra bodies back from injury and onto the training field,” Everitt said.
“We also had the chance to address issues arising from the Lions game - the set piece would have been top of the agenda - while also focusing on lessons learned from when we played the Bulls a few weeks ago (the set piece comes to mind once more).”
The Sharks wobbled in the scrums and the lineouts way back in February at the start of Super Rugby, but quickly fixed it and by the time the tournament was paused, it was an area of strength. Everitt says they can do the same again.
“It is not something we are worried about (the set pieces). It is fixable. Looking at the scrums, on their day Ox (Nche) and Thomas (du Toit) can destroy teams,” he said.