Sharks get some bite

Brent Russell, Odwa Ndungane and JP Pietersen will add strike power to the Sharks for Saturday’s Absa Currie Cup game against the Lions.

Coach Dick Muir confirmed that Pietersen has been released by Jake White to play this weekend and said he “definitely” intends to use the utility back.

Pietersen and Russell both travelled with the Springboks on the away leg of the Vodacom Tri Nations but didn’t see any game time. In effect, this means that the duo haven’t played in a competitive match for over a month but Muir doesn’t see this as an issue.

“I’m disappointed that JP and Brent didn’t get a run,” he told keo.co.za. “I believe if they did they would still be there now.

“They are special players and the fact that they haven’t played in a while means little to me. They have enough class between them to slot in perfectly,” he added.

Odwa Ndungane and Bradley Barritt have both recovered from injury but their inclusion is less certain than that of their Bok counterparts.

Either Craig Burden or Cedric Mkhize would be unfortunate to sit out if Ndungane were to be included. Their form has been superb over the first round of the competition, but so was Ndungane’s before a hamstring injury sidelined him three weeks ago.

Barritt is considered by many to be a better centre than a flyhalf and he could well be handed the No 12 shirt if Russell played at pivot.

A midfield pairing of Barritt and Waylon Murray would provide the Durban side with a directness in their play and surely pose a serious threat to the vulnerable Lions midfield.

Muir is toying with a number of different positional options in his backline. Pietersen is almost certain to start at fullback which would mean that 19-year-old Frans Steyn would either be slotted in at flyhalf or dropped to the bench if Russell is plays there.

But Muir hinted that he was reluctant to drop the U21 star.

“We consider Frans to be an extremely talented footballer,” he said. “His vision and balance are amazing and we have big hopes for him.

“We know his best position is flyhalf but it’s just testament to his class that he has done the job for us at No 15. He is a player you always want in your side.”

Steyn may well get the nod based purely on his goal-kicking ability. Ruan Pienaar’s Bok call-up has left a void in this department and he has assumed the role for the Baby Boks in the past.

Muir now turns is attentions to preparing his team for a trip to face a resurgent Lions team at Ellis Park, and cautions the Johannesburg based side to expect more of the attacking style of play that has become synonymous with the Sharks this season.

“We won’t kick away possession unless we really have to,” he said. “The ball-in-hand approach has worked for us so far this season and there’s no need to change that.

“Our option taking will be key, knowing when it’s on and when to be a bit more conservative is what we need to learn.”

By Ryan Vrede