The Sharks dual-squad system has opened the door for an upset according to Pumas captain Riaan van der Merwe.
The team from Witbank may still be reeling from the 60-26 loss to Griquas last week, but the decision by Dick Muir to select a new Sharks team for Friday’s clash at the ABSA Stadium has ignited new hope.
“We have so much to improve on from last week’s game,” Van Der Merwe told Keo.co.za. “With the selection of all these Sharks youngsters, we feel that we have more than a chance.
“Last week was such a disappointment. We started well and then just let it slip, the score should never have been that high.”
The question needs to be asked whether players in the lower leagues of South African domestic rugby enjoy making it to the premier competition, only to be presented with a second string opposition.
“Obviously it’s not ideal. As a player you would prefer to measure yourself against an experienced Springbok like AJ Venter,” Van Der Merwe said.
The Pumas captain knows that the young Sharks side will be inexperienced, and so will instruct his side to concentrate on playing a very tight and physical game.
“We want to focus on the physical aspect. We’ve selected a big backline that should cause a few problems for the Sharks in the midfield.”
Sharks: 15- Brett Hennessey, 14- Dusty Noble,13- Okkie Vermeulen, 12- Andries Strauss, 11- Craig Burden, 10- Steve Meyer 9- Sandile Nxumalo, 8- Ryan Kankowski, 7- Jaco Gouws (c), 6- Keegan Daniel, 5- Steven Sykes, 4- Wouter Moore, 3- Danie Saayman, 2- Skipper Badenhorst, 1- Kees Lensing. Replacements: 16- Jody Jenneker, 17- Sangoni Mxoli, 18- Nikolai Blignaut, 19- Conrad Stoltz, 20- Scott Mathie, 21- Gcobani Bobo, 22- Mzwandile Stick.
Pumas: 15- Casper Steyn, 14- Sasha Marot, 13- Sam Gerber, 12- Hendrik Meyer, 11- Hyron Thysse; 10- Pieter Benade, 9- Ashieq Wise; 8- Riaan van der Merwe (c), 7- Duanne Vermeulen, 6- Danzel Manuel, 5- Jacques Lombard, 4- Bokkie Swanepoel, 3- Johan Prins, 2- Ashton Constant, 1- Jacques Muller. Reserves: 16- Frikkie de Jager, 17- Simon-Peter Blakeley, 18- Jonathan van der Schyff, 19- CornÃ© Steenkamp, 20- Neil Cole, 21- Arno Coetzee, 22- Neil Visagie.
By Jon Cardinelli