Bok beef to bolster Sharks
The return of their Springboks will see the Sharks field a powerful tight five in their crunch match with Western Province this weekend.
The Durban outfit have confirmed that their experienced Springbok front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis will all start, along with young lock Pieter-Steph du Toit who has also been with the national squad.
Flank Willem Alberts has not yet recovered from the neck injury he sustained in the loss to the All Blacks at Ellis Park, whilst Pat Lambie is set to play off the bench before coming into the starting line-up in their home semifinal the following week.
The final league match of the Currie Cup season will determine which team finishes on top of the standings, so the Sharks are not keen on leaving anything to chance.
Backline coach Sean Everitt explained that they simply cannot afford to leave their Bok tight forwards out of the mix in such an important game.
"We feel that Jannie, Bismarck and Beast will add a bit of beef upfront for us and Pieter-Steph du Toit comes in as well.
"He's [Du Toit] done really well when he’s played for us and hasn't had much rugby, so it will be good for him to play. It also gives him an opportunity to prove himself to Heyneke Meyer.
"Unfortunately, Willem Alberts is injured. He went for a scan on his neck and we will know the extent later in the week," he said.
He added that they intend playing Lambie at flyhalf and would like to give him a chance to familiarise himself with their systems before putting him in the starting line-up.
"This gives him an opportunity to learn the calls as we are very flyhalf orientated. But he will definitely start in the semifinal.
"We hadn't considered Pat at fullback because SP Marais has done really well for us, he has a good left boot which offers us another option and he has been attacking well so we're not going to tamper with that.
"At the same time, Pat's also in contention for the Springbok number 10 jersey at the end of the year so selecting him at fullback would be an injustice to him," he explained.
Everitt dismissed concerns that the returning Springboks would be fatigued or lack motivation in the knock-out phase of the Currie Cup.
"We had them all involved at the start of our campaign at our preparation week and they've been part of our squad when the Springboks have had their byes.
"They know exactly what's going on, they've always been included and have attended a lot of our games, including Friday night's match against the Bulls, so they have really been a part of our team. I don't see continuity being a problem at all," he said.
The Sharks backline coach pointed out that Currie Cup players have actually had a bigger workload than the Springboks.
"A concern some might raise would be the fatigue of the returning Springbok players, but the Currie Cup players have actually played more than the Springboks, so I don't think that will be too much of a problem.
"I honestly cannot see that our returning players are going to be demotivated playing for the Sharks. If anything, they'll try to get over the disappointment of losing to the All Blacks and try to move on and create some success with the Sharks.
"Jannie and Beast, despite starting every Test, returned with a wonderful attitude. And so too the rest of the Boks, we're looking forward to having them back," he said.
Asked about the opportunity to work with former Springbok and Brumbies coach Jake White who has been confirmed as the Sharks' new Director of Rugby from the end of the Currie Cup, he said: "Coming in as relatively inexperienced Currie Cup or Super Rugby coaches, it's a wonderful opportunity for us to work with Jake. We all know what he can do, he has a Rugby World Cup winner's medal behind him, so we look forward to that.
"It's a huge opportunity for us to learn from someone with his expertise and at the same time, we've learned a lot from Brendan, he's brought a lot to the party. The results speak for themselves and the environment that's been created here is awesome. We're very fortunate to be able to work with coaches of this calibre," he added.