The Sharks are giving wing JP Pietersen as much time as possible to prove his fitness for their match against the Hurricanes at King’s Park on Saturday.
If he fails to recover Luzuko Vulindlu will make his first run-on start for the Sharks. The only other changes comes in the front row where John Smit replaces Jannie du Plessis at tighthead prop.
JP Pietersen sustained an ankle and calf injury against the Brumbies last week and told keo.co.za that he would miss the Canes clash. That was reinforced by assistant coach Grant Bashford.
However, he seems to be recovering quicker than expected and may still feature in the match. A decision on Pietersen’s involvement will be taken on Friday evening.
Bashford lamented Pietersen’s situation but was supremely confident that Vulindlu would be a capable replacement despite having played just 75 minutes of Super Rugby in the current campaign. However, at 95kg and standing 1.89m he’ll certainly add a physical presence out wide.
‘He’s impressed us in the limited game time he’s had so we have no reservations about throwing Luzuko into the mix,’ Bashford told keo.co.za.
‘He has a pretty good skill set and is quick for a big guy and he’s really excited about the challenge of playing against a quality outfit like the Hurricanes.
‘Obviously losing JP would be massive for us. He was just starting to get into his stride and was playing some outstanding rugby [Pietersen has scored six tries in seven matches]. But if he doesn’t make it we’re seeing it as an opportunity to give another promising player a hit out and we’re keen to see how he [Vulindlu] goes.’
Sharks - 15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen/Luzuko Vulindlu, 10 Francois Steyn, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Keegan Daniel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller (c), 4 Steven Sykes, 3 John Smit, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Jannie du Plessi, 17 Deon Carstens, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Skholiwe Ndlovu, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Monty Dumond, 22 Luzuko Vulindlu/Chris Jordaan.
By Ryan Vrede