Johannesburg - As expected, coach John Plumtree has selected a strong Sharks side for Friday night’s (19:00) warm-up clash against the Pumas at KaNyamazane Stadium as he looks to finalise his team for next week’s opening match.
According to Sharks website editor, Michael Marnewick, with everyone getting a chance, it was anticipated that there would be numerous changes, with a seemingly first-choice front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Craig Burden and Jannie du Plessis selected for the game.
Anton Bresler gets a start in the second row with the loose-forward trio remaining unchanged. Cobus Reinach will partner Pat Lambie and Paul Jordaan will combine with captain Francois Steyn in the midfield.
JP Pietersen for Odwa Ndungane and Louis Ludik for Riaan Viljoen are the final two changes.
The loss of Keegan Daniel has opened the door for Francois Kleinhans who plays off the bench but Ryan Kankowski, who is back in training with The Sharks, wasn’t considered for this match. “We want him to have a week of weights training to get his strength up 10-15 percent for next week,” explained coach John Plumtree. “He's obviously a very important player with Keegan out so we want to get him back to top shape.”
The Sharks coach explained that between the two warm-up games, everyone would get a start, with the line-up for this match possibly having a strong resemblance to the team that plays the Cheetahs in next week’s opening Vodacom Super Rugby game.
“It might be closer to the starting line-up, but obviously that depends on how they perform. Everyone played really well in Maritzburg, but the opposition was pretty average, that was the disappointing part of that game as well as the injuries I guess.”
He added that they expected more from a competitive Pumas outfit.
“They have an experienced coach in Jimmy Stonehouse, they'll come out firing and we should get a physical, competitive hit-out, which we want.
“You always want to play well before you go into any competition. We are staying up there for a day or two afterwards, we'll visit the Kruger Park and have a bit of team-building, which will be very nice. But you want to have a good performance so you can enjoy those couple of days. And we've got to make sure it doesn't distract us from our task, which is obviously to play well against the Pumas. I was really impressed with the attitude against the Leopards last week, we had a really nice crowd. The players need to set a standard in terms of attitude, and we are playing at altitude, which will be a good thing before we go to Bloemfontein.”
Sharks team: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Francois Steyn (captain), 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Lubabalo Mtembu, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Substitutes: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Allan Dell, 18 Wiehahn Herbst, 19 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 20 Francois Kleinhans, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Meyer Bosman, 23 Odwa Ndungane, 24 Riaan Viljoen.