Durban - The need to give all the players the game time they want has seen the Sharks shift John Smit back to tighthead prop for Saturday’s Super 14 clash with the Brumbies in Canberra.
Smit captained the side from hooker when the Sharks went down narrowly to the Waratahs in Sydney last week and on the televised evidence he is starting to head back to the condition that made him one of the best No 2s in the world when he captained the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007.
However, Bismarck du Plessis was the Springbok starting hooker for much of the past two years, and after sitting on the bench last week, he was due another start in this game. His return is at the expense of his brother, Jannie, who played tighthead last week and drops to the bench.
Ironically, this time last year there was pressure on Sharks coach John Plumtree to give Smit game time at tighthead prop as it was deemed to be in the national interests. Prop was where Springbok coach Peter de Villiers wanted to field him in the series against the British and Irish Lions.
It is understood that has changed this season, as the Boks have taken cognisance of how much better the scrum went when Smit was returned to hooker with BJ Botha at tighthead in the final test of 2009 against Ireland in Dublin. It is anticipated Smit will wear the No2 at international level again this year, but now he finds himself flitting between his preferred position and tighthead.
The virtually unchanged Sharks team is a vote of confidence in the combination that produced a much improved performance in Sydney. Wing Odwa Ndungane and reserve flank Rory Kockott have both recovered from minor injuries that prevented them from training fully this week.
Andy Goode continues at flyhalf, which means that Ruan Pienaar is getting another chance to get reacquainted with his old scrumhalf jersey. However the partnership may not last for long as it has been learned that Goode will not be available for the Sharks after they return to South Africa due to the procedure that would have to be followed to secure him a work permit.
15. Adam Ashley-Cooper, 14. Pat McCabe, 13. Stirling Mortlock, 12. Christian Lealiifano, 11. Francis Fainifo, 10. Matt Giteau, 9. Josh Valentine, 8. Stephen Hoiles (captain), 7. George Smith, 6. Rocky Elsom, 5. Mark Chisholm, 4. Ben Hand, 3. Salesi Maafu, 2. Stephen Moore, 1. Ben Alexander
Substitutes: 16. Huia Edmonds, 17. Guy Shepherdson, 18. Justin Harrison, 19. Mitchell Chapman, 20. Patrick Phibbs, 21. Matt Toomua, 22. Tyrone Smith
15. Stefan Terblanche, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Adrian Jacobs, 12. Riaan Swanepoel, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Andy Goode, 9. Ruan Pienaar, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Johann Muller, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. John Smit (captain), 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Beast Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Jannie du Plessis, 18. Alistair Hargreaves, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Keegan Daniel, 21. Rory Kockott, 22. Waylon Murray