Russell and Solly sidelined

Brent Russell must be wondering what he has to do to convince coaches of his value to their teams.

Russell has been excluded from the Sharks run-on 15 in favour of the inconsistent Adrian Jacobs for their Absa Currie Cup match against the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Durban on Saturday.

One can only presume Muir’s thinking behind leaving Russell out was his concern about his aptitude to deal with the high ball, should the Bulls opt to utilise that tactic to pressure the 1.73m utility-back.

Last week Muir told “Teams will always look to test him under the high ball and if their outside backs are quick and alert he could be in trouble every time.”

Russell played in his preferred role of fullback against Griquas last week and was mercurial. He scored a try by searing through the Griquas defence and also started the move which created a try for Bismarck du Plessis.

With JP Pietersen back, it was always expected that Russell would have to surrender the No 15 shirt but that he now wears No 22 is perplexing.

Muir though has been a master of the mind games this season. He has in the past announced his starting lineup, only to spring a selection surprise on his opponents on match day.

BJ Botha, for example has been named in the starting lineup, but when contacted the Springbok prop yesterday, he was reluctant to comment, saying emphatically: “I’m not playing on Saturday, so I don’t really feel it’s my place to talk about a game I won’t be involved in.”

The rest of the team is as expected, with the return of the non-contracted Boks bolstering the Durban-based side.

Muir still can’t find a place for Solly Tyibilika and will continue with his impressive back-row combination of AJ Venter, Jacques Botes and Warren Britz. Tyibilika’s return means IRB U21 World Player of the Year nominee, Keegan Daniel, will play for the KZN U21′s.

Butch James and Ruan Pienaar are reunited as the half-back pair and James will assume the goal-kicking duties.

In the front row, Kees Lensing has recovered from an abdominal and groin strain and will start at loosehead prop.

By Ryan Vrede

Sharks squad:

15. JP Pietersen 14. Odwa Ndungane 13. Waylon Murray 12. Bradley Barritt 11. Adrian Jacobs 10. Butch James 9. Ruan Pienaar 8. AJ Venter (Captain) 7. Jacques Botes 6. Warren Britz 5. Steven Sykes 4. Johann Muller 3. BJ Botha 2. Bismarck du Plessis 1. Kees Lensing Replacements: 16. Jody Jenneker 17. Deon Carstens 18. Ryan Kankowski 19. Solly Tyibilika 20. Scott Mathie 21. Francois Steyn 22. Brent Russell