Durban - One of the most assuring features of the Sharks' Currie Cup win over the Blue Bulls last weekend was that it was achieved without two of their most important players.
According to coach John Plumtree it was no coincidence that it was when Jean Deysel hit his best form in the recent Super 14 that his struggling team experienced a dramatic change of fortune. And it was a similar story in 2008, when Deysel’s arrival as a top player coincided with the first Currie Cup title for the Sharks since 1996.
A player in the mould of the famous former Natal and Springbok ball hugging flank Wahl Bartmann, Deysel was possibly unlucky to miss out on national selection.
His Sharks team-mate, No 8 Ryan Kankowski, is playing out of position on the flank against Australia on Saturday, and many critics are rightfully sceptical about the composition of a back row that now has two really loose players in Kankowski and Spies while Schalk Burger is being expected to change the style of play that has been effective for him all year.
What the Boks are missing is a big ball carrier who can operate close to the heavy traffic, and Deysel, had he been present, could have fitted that role. Juan Smith will get his chance to re-establish himself as the blindside flank during the home leg of the Tri-Nations, but the battle to be his back-up will be intense, and the recent failures of the Boks against New Zealand could just open the way for Deysel should he regain his top form in the Currie Cup.
Unfortunately for the Sharks his return is still being put at a couple of weeks, but they are welcoming back one big ball carrying forward in former Lions loose forward Willem Alberts for this week’s clash with the Pumas.
Both Deysel and Alberts were missed against the Bulls, where their ability to carry across the advantage line was sorely needed on those occasions they had to build up beyond eight phases without making enough of an impression on the Bulls’ defensive system.
Alberts will play off the bench this week, but the Sharks management will be hoping he quickly regains his momentum ahead of the tougher matches that lie in the team’s future.
The team for the Pumas game is largely unchanged, with Patrick Lambie continuing at centre after making a success of his new position last week and getting another chance there against the Pumas.
Sharks: 15. Louis Ludik 14. JP Pietersen 13. Stefan Terblanche (captain) 12. Patrick Lambie 11. Lwazi Mvovo 10. Steve Meyer 9. Charl McLeod 8. Keegan Daniel 7. Michael Rhodes 6. Jacques Botes 5. Alistair Hargreaves 4. Steven Sykes 3. Wiehahn Herbst 2. Craig Burden 1. Patric Cilliers
Replacements 16. Kyle Cooper 17. Eugene van Staden 18. Ross Skeate 19. Willem Alberts 20. Rory Kockott, 21. Monty Dumond, 22. Andries Strauss