Adi Jacobs will partner Frans Steyn in midfield, with Waylon Murray watching from the wood for the Sharks’ crucial match against the Cheetahs.
Sharks head coach Dick Muir has built a reputation for rotating his players and the latest move should come as no surprise to those familiar with his selection philosophy.
Jacobs, who has played the majority of the season off the bench, will front the Cheetahs in the most decisive game of the Sharks’ campaign to date. This despite their Springbok midfielder, Waylon Murray, being available for selection.
When JP Pietersen was axed for their match against the Highlanders on 11 April, Murray was utilised on the wing, with limited effect. Pietersen was then brought back for their next match, which saw Murray dropped to the bench and Steyn occupying the outside centre berth.
Murray’s form hard hardly warranted the cold sting of the axe and to see Jacobs included ahead of him in a match of this magnitude is perplexing. Murray will be joined on the bench by Brad Barritt, who has recovered from a shoulder injury, with Ruan Pienaar and Steyn forming the 10-12 axis.
The Sharks will also be without captain Johann Muller, who hasn’t recovered from a calf strain. His place in the second row will be taken by Johan Ackermann who will be partnered by Albert van den Berg, with Steven Sykes providing lock cover.
The Sharks will, however, have the services of Bismarck du Plessis, who has overcome a sternum injury. The hooker was in very good form before the injury ruined his Australasian tour and his return will bolster the side significantly.
Sharks - Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Adi Jacobs, Frans Steyn, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockett, Ryan Kankowski, AJ Venter (c), Jacques Botes, Johan Ackermann, Albert van den Berg, BJ Botha, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: Craig Burden, Jannie du Plessis, Steven Sykes, Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel, Brad Barritt, Waylon Murray.
By Ryan Vrede