Johannesburg - Fred Zeilinga will continue at flyhalf ahead of veteran Butch James when the Sharks face the wounded Blue Bulls in their Absa Currie Cup clash on Saturday afternoon.
According to the supersport.com website, the team for the match will only be named later on Wednesday, but coach Brad MacLeod-Henderson confirmed to Durban reporters after training on Tuesday that he and his co-coach Sean Everitt and director of rugby Brendan Venter have seen enough potential in the young product of Glenwood High to want to give him a chance to develop in the role.
With Charl McLeod having played several games in succession and being very much the man in possession at No 9 since Cobus Reinach was injured against the Reds during Super Rugby, the Sharks see this game as an opportunity to make a rotational change by reverting to the Reinach.
“We are fortunate to have quality players in both halfback positions. Fred played nicely against the Cheetahs and gets another chance while Charl has played three games in succession so it’s time for rotation,” said MacLeod-Henderson.
The coach also made it clear that Jacques Botes, called in as the interim captain in an emergency when Keegan Daniel had to pull out at the 11th hour ahead of the opening game against Griquas, will continue as both the No 8 and team leader even though Daniel will be playing his second game on the flank after returning to the last week.
“Jacques is going along nicely, both as a captain and a No 8. The captaincy is something we will look at week by week. We don’t regard the captaincy to be a serious issue. We have Jacques, Keegan, Butch and Jean Deysel who all fill leadership roles.”
Further anticipated changes to the side that did well to beat the Cheetahs away last weekend will see Odwa Ndungane return from injury to play on his familiar position on the wing in place of Sizo Maskeo (Ndungane played fullback earlier in the season), Craig Burden get a chance to start at hooker, and Peet Marais come in as a starting lock after playing 30 minutes as a replacement last week.
The Sharks coaches have spent the week talking up the Bulls even though the Pretoria team were thumped 62-23 by the Lions last weekend, and rightly so. While the Bulls were awful in the Gauteng derby and were thrashed by their neighbours, the Bulls showed on their one visit away from Loftus this season, when they drew with Western Province in Cape Town, that when they are up for a specific game they can be dangerous.
And after the chastening experience of last week, don’t bet against the Bulls travelling to Durban in the sort of mood that makes the animal they are named after something to avoid.
But the Sharks, with youngsters in the key decision-making axis (Heimar Williams will be playing outside Zeilinga), will be eager to show that they can get through another test and build further confidence before a potentially perilous trip to Cape Town the following weekend.