THERE is more than a hint that it will be Springbok loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira and not flank Marcell Coetzee who will take over from the injured Pat Lambie as the Sharks new Super Rugby captain.
Lambie was appointed captain by head coach Gary Gold last month with Coetzee named as the official vice-captain. And it was Coetzee who took over the team in the friendly against Toulouse after Lambie went down with a serious shoulder injury against Toulon.
Lambie will be sidelined for three months following surgery and it seemed a certainty that Coetzee would take over the captaincy, but in the past week it has been Mtawarira who has been the face of the Sharks.
First – “as a Sharks senior player” – he joined the captains of the five other franchises in the SuperSport studios in Randburg in trying to sell the confusing Super Rugby competition to the sceptical public, and now reporters have been told that the big prop will be alongside Gold at tomorrow’s naming of the team to play the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The reason for any possible change is unclear but Coetzee’s recent announcement that he is heading for Ulster after this year’s Super Rugby season may have a bearing on the decision.
In another apparent about-turn, Namibian World Cup lock Tjiuee Uanivi, who was contracted by the Sharks in the build-up to the season but then loaned to the Kings, has been recalled to Durban from Port Elizabeth and was back training with Gold’s squad this week. The Sharks have been hit by second-row injuries to Ruan Botha (out for 12 weeks) and Giant Mtyanda (three weeks) and it appears they want to boost their second-row reserves.
Uanivi was not in the Southern Kings squad named yesterday to play on Saturday but two other former Sharks locks were included. Steven Sykes will captain the Kings and ex-Sharks lock JC Astle will pack down alongside him. Ntando Kebe and the experienced Elgar Watts are the halfbacks.
Gold, according to reports from the Sharks camp, is set on building for the future and will opt for youth ahead of experience in naming his team for Saturday. This could mean that Garth April stars at flyhalf ahead of Joe Pietersen with Cobus Reinach, rather than Michael Claassens, at scrumhalf.
The 20-year-old Du Preez twins, Dan and Jean-Luc, are expected to join Coetzee in the backrow.
The good news for Sharks supporters is that lock Stephan Lewies is back from an extended injury break and he will be in the second-row with Etienne Oosthuizen. Prop Thomas du Toit, another 20-year-old, will vie with Springbok Coenie Oosthuizen for the tighthead spot, though the youngster will probably be on the bench in Port Elizabeth.
Saturday’s match kicks off at 3 pm and Jaco van Heerden will be the referee.
Kings team: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Luzuko Vulindlu, 13 JP du Plessis, 12 Shane Gates, 11 Malcolm Jaer, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Ntando Kebe, 8 Jacques Engelbrecht, 7 Thembelani Bholi, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 JC Astle, 4 Steven Sykes (c), 3 Tom Botha, 2 Martin Ferreira, 1 Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 TBC, 19 Schalk Oelofse, 20 Cyril-John Velleman, 21 Leighton Eksteen, 22 Louis Fouché, 23 Charles Radebe.