Sharks face leadership poser
Durban - Frans Steyn’s escape from further punishment following the red card he received in the match against the Chiefs last weekend means there are three candidates for the Cell C Sharks captaincy for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash with the Force.
Steyn’s card was rescinded, meaning it has been struck from the records, following a disciplinary hearing on Monday into the tip tackle that saw him sent from the field in the 27th minute of a tempestuous match won 12-11 by the Sharks.
According to the supersport.com website, he was training with his teammates on Monday afternoon and looks set to move back to flyhalf for the Force game as first choice Patrick Lambie will be rested this week.
As one of the members of the leadership group, and a man who has led the Sharks in the past, Steyn would appear to be the leading candidate for the captaincy, but given the pressure he has been under over the past few days and the question marks over his discipline (he was also carded against the Stormers a few weeks ago), director of rugby Gary Gold may think twice about choosing him as the stand-in captain.
And whoever does come in will be a stand-in captain, for Lambie will return for the following week’s game against the Crusaders, and has impressed when called upon to lead when Bismarck du Plessis has been absent in previous matches this season. Du Plessis of course is out for four weeks after being suspended following the red card he received for kicking out at an opponent’s face during the first half.
The other two candidates are lock Marco Wentzel and No 8 Ryan Kankowski, with the latter being the dark horse for the leadership if Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold decides that Wentzel is already carrying enough responsibility as the man who calls the lineouts.
With Steyn carrying the extra burdens of a switch in position and the scrutiny related to his recent disciplinary infractions, it could well be that Kankowski will be the man Gold turns to.
Whatever he decides, the Sharks are going to look a very different team when they take the field at Kings Park than they did for last week’s game. Lambie is not the only Bok being rested, with Marcell Coetzee and Cobus Reinach also set to watch from the stands this week.
Steyn looks an almost certain selection at No 10, which would mean a return to the position he played for most of last year’s competition when Lambie was injured, with Andre Esterhuizen set to take the No 12 jersey. That would certainly give the Sharks a big physical presence in the No 10/12 axis, and with outside centre JP Pietersen not exactly being small either, the Force midfield could have its work cut out.
What is less clear cut for the Sharks is the configuration of the back row, with assistant coach Paul Anthony mentioning several options in his post-practice chat with media.
“We are looking at Renaldo Bothma as a possible option to replace Marcell, but we also have Khaya Majola in the mix. He played well for the Vodacom Cup team against the Border Bulldogs this past weekend and has a definite chance of playing,” said Anthony.
Reinach will be replaced by Conrad Hoffmann at scrumhalf, while Du Plessis’ place in the front row will be taken by Kyle Cooper. Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira both joined fellow Bok Willem Alberts in sitting out training at the start of the week, with Mtawarira still sporting a nasty looking bump on his eye, but it is anticipated that one or both of them should be fit to face the Force, who Anthony believes are a team that needs to be taken seriously after their narrow defeat to the Bulls.
“The thing about the Western Force is that they are a team that is good at adjusting their game to suit particular opponents as they are good at analyzing and finding vulnerabilities in the make-ups of the teams they play against. So they are not one of those teams where you feel you know what to expect from them, and we are busy deciding what areas in our game they will decide are vulnerable and then try and shore up those potential weaknesses.”