Zeilinga or Butch for Sharks?
Fred Zeilinga (Gallo Images)
Durban - One of the big questions that will be answered when the Sharks name their team for Saturday’s key Currie Cup clash with Western Province at Newlands is who fills the flyhalf spot, reports the supersport.com website
Young Fred Zeilinga has been brilliant for the Sharks in the past two matches as the pivotal component of the new approach that has been ushered in by the Durban team since Brendan Venter
took charge as director of rugby.
Subdue and suffocate seems to be the new Sharks mantra, and it was by playing the Blue Bulls into their own half with long and well directed kicks that the Sharks laid the platform for their ultimately comfortable victory.
Indeed, there were times when it was possible to wonder whether the two teams had swopped jerseys during the first 50 minutes of the match.
The Bulls scored an excellent running rugby try early on to wing Akona Ndungane, with the Sharks’ response being immediate - the ball was kicked deep towards the Bulls’ right corner flag, back went their fullback Jurgen Visser, who then kicked against his charging opposite number, SP Marais. Try time!
The bulk of the Sharks’ tries this season can be sourced in kick and chase and the territory game if you do a proper analysis of it, and Zeilinga, since being introduced at No 10, has confirmed the potential he showed at age-group level as he came through the Sharks systems.
But will he play against WP at the harsh away venue that is Newlands? He has shown he can operate in a different environment by playing well against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein the match before last, but the word from Durban is that another round of selection rotation is expected this week - and it would be a surprise if the experienced veteran Butch James
was not reintroduced for this crucial match.
If so, it wouldn’t be down to Zeilinga being dropped or having done anything wrong in the early season. It will just be part of a plan that was scripted before the season even started by Venter and his two coaches, Brad MacLeod-Henderson and Sean Everett.
In an exclusive interview with supersport.com before the Currie Cup season started, Venter made it clear that it is not teams that win competitions in modern rugby, but squads. He stressed that it would be his mission to create a squad of 40 players rather than rely on one starting team every week.
The emergence of someone like Zeilinga is an indication that Venter is well on his way to doing that. But Zeilinga has now played two matches in a row after James played the first two, and that probably means the World Cup winner is due to get some game time.
Another player who is expected to get some game time and is now back from his latest injury is centre Tim Whitehead.
In the absence of the former WP player, another newcomer in Heimar Williams has excelled - again, an example of the Sharks' growing depth.
That everyone in the Sharks system has been informed ahead of time when they will be used and won’t be used was illustrated in the post-match interview after last week’s game.
When asked if his inspiring match-winning cameo meant that he would be back next week, scrumhalf Charl McLeod said that Cobus Reinach
was due another go.
Meanwhile former Springbok World Cup-winning prop Balie Swart will be coming in to help the Sharks scrum adjust to the new law interpretations at the engagement on Tuesday. He has been called in to address issues that have developed through the first weeks of the competition.
“The new scrum law interpretations are taking a bit of time for everyone to still get to grips with,” said MacLeod-Henderson.
“I thought we did pretty well at scrum-time against Free State the previous week but we seemed to suffer against the Blue Bulls. We have Balie coming to visit us on Tuesday and he will chat to the forwards and see if we can get everyone on the same wavelength as to what the referees want from us.”