The idea clearly is to give all of the players a fair shout in what amounts to a trials match and then only tomorrow will head coach Robert du Preez announce his squad to travel to Hong Kong next week for the match against French club Racing 92. We can safely predict the starting 15 for that match will resemble the run-on side for the Sharks’ Super Rugby opener against the Lions in Johannesburg on February 17.
“The two teams we have selected have been mixed up completely, and we will only finalise the squad to go to Hong Kong after the Bulls match, so we are serious about giving everybody a chance and about the side that makes the trip overseas,” Du Preez confirmed.
Ruan Botha, the lock announced as Super Rugby captain on Thursday, will captain the team contesting the first half, and hooker Franco Marais will lead the second-half team.
“During a Super Rugby season you use up to 40 players, so all these guys are potentially going to play at some stage,” Du Preez said. “There is going to be strong competition for places and it is not going to be easy to pick the team for the opening match against the Lions, but our ultimate success is about all these guys contributing. We have to be very smart about how we use our squad.”
After the disappointment of losing the Currie Cup final against Western Province last October, and having also been outplayed by the same team two weeks before, also in Durban, Du Preez acknowledged that the coaching staff had reflected on what could be done better this year.
Scoring more tries has been an obvious focus. “We are a much fitter team in terms of rugby related-matters in that we have not been doing mindless running in pre-season and have concentrated heavily on skills development in conjunction with fitness.”
In other words, the players have been doing their conditioning with ball in hand to make them more effective on both attack and defence.
“We are not yet as fit as we aim to be but are getting there, and the players have really enjoyed working on fitness while at the same time improving their skills,”
Sharks (first half) - 15 Lwazi Mvovo, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Jeremy Ward, 11 S’busiso Nkosi, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cameron Wright, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha (capt), 4 Hyron Andrews, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Juan Schoeman.
Sharks (second half) - 15 Garth April, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Tristan Blewett, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Courtney Winnaar, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Wian Vosloo, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Gideon Koegelenberg, 3 John-Hubert Meyer, 2 Franco Marais (c), 1 Mzamo Majola.