Willem Alberts, Beast Mtawarira and Craig Burden have been promoted to the Sharks’ starting line-up for the Currie Cup final against WP this Saturday.
Springbok duo Alberts and Mtawarira made their first domestic appearances of the season off the bench in the 20-3 semi-final victory over the Blue Bulls last weekend, while hooker Burden has been utilised as reserve over the last fortnight.
The Sharks hinted earlier in the week that dominance up front will be key in gaining ascendancy during the title-decider. The promotion of both these players adds muscle and power to their pack. Jean Deysel and Kyle Cooper drop to the bench as a result, while Dale Chadwick falls out of the match-day squad.
Good news for the men from Durban is that tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis has recovered from his head knock that he suffered last weekend and retains the No 3 jersey. The 29-year-old will be crucial in the front row battle.
Head coach John Plumtree has overlooked the opportunity to push Baby Bok and Sharks U21 utility forward Pieter-Steph du Toit into the senior team.
The Sharks have struggled in the lineouts in recent weeks, especially against the Bulls, and Plumtree saw Du Toit as a solution to this issue. However, he’s decided to start Steven Sykes and Anton Bresler in the second row, while Jandre Marais will provide lock cover.
Skipper Keegan Daniel said the forwards have trained hard on their set-piece execution during the week.
‘I think we scrummed really well against the Bulls last weekend,’ said Daniel. ‘The lineouts were a concern. It was a combination of poor throwing and calling the wrong options.
‘We need to be better this weekend as WP have been impressive at the lineouts. They’ll probably target us there. They have a strong rolling maul, but we have our plans to defend it.’
The Sharks backline remains unchanged.
Fullback Louis Ludik, who’s been in impressive form during the tournament, expects Province to deliver a strong kicking game.
‘They have some good tactical kickers in their team,’ Ludik also told this site. ‘We need to be good in the air and can’t afford many mistakes. We’ll be prepared, especially against a guy like [WP flyhalf] Demetri Catrakilis.’
Sharks – 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Keegan Daniel (c), 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Jandre Marais, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Odwa Ndungane.
By Gareth Duncan, in Durban