Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The retention of John Smit as the starting hooker will be the big talking point of the Sharks team that was announced on Thursday, but it shouldn't really be.
By bringing Bismarck du Plessis back from injury off the bench, Sharks coach John Plumtree is only sticking to the tried and trusted policy he has stuck with for the last two years - as far as possible, injured players will be reintroduced to the team off the bench. So the selection is not a case of Plumtree preferring one player over another.
Du Plessis was out with a shoulder injury when Smit played so well for the Sharks against the Hurricanes last week, so it makes sense for Du Plessis to be part of what is a power packed bench that includes four further Springboks in the form of Alistair Hargreaves, Jean Deysel, Adi Jacobs and Lwazi Mvovo.
The last mentioned makes way for Odwa Ndungane in what has been described as a rotational selection for this game. The return of Ndungane to the No 14 jersey is one of three changes to the side that beat the Hurricanes last week.
Keegan Daniel is back at openside flank for Jacques Botes in what would have been a rotational selection anyway even were it not for the fact that Botes is now ruled out with injury. Deysel comes into the squad for the first time in 10 months as a replacement for Botes on the bench.
Jannie du Plessis is back at tighthead prop in place of Eugene van Staden, who is another player the Sharks will be pleased they can call on with fresh legs later in the game. Certainly on paper at least the Sharks bench looks better placed to make an impact than the Stormers bench, although it remains to be seen how much Deysel will be able to offer as he makes his way back from his long injury lay-off.
By all accounts he has made good progress with the Sharks XV, however, and Plumtree said earlier in the week that he was back to near where he would want him to be for Sharks senior action. If that is the case the Sharks are spoiled for choice when it comes to driving loose-forwards for Willem Alberts, who is a similar style of player, has come into his own since Deysel last played Super Rugby.
15 Conrad Jantjes, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Jaque Fourie, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Bryan Habana, 10 Peter Grant/ Lionel Cronje, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Francois Louw, 6 Schalk Burger (captain), 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Rynhardt Elstadt, 3 CJ van der Linde, 2 Deon Fourie, 1 Wicus Blaauw
Substitutes: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Brok Harris, 18 De Kock Steenkamp, 19 Nick Koster, 20 Ricky Januarie, 21 Lionel Cronje/ Kurt Coleman, 22 Juan de Jongh
15. Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Ross Skeate, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. John Smit (captain), 1. Tendai Mtawarira
Substitutes: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Eugene van Staden, 18. Alistair Hargreaves, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Adrian Jacobs, 22. Lwazi Mvovo