Johannesburg - Springbok Marcell Coetzee will play off the bench as the Sharks go into their final under-strength Currie Cup league match against the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night.
According to the supersport.com website, the Sharks are at the top of the log at present, but only on points difference ahead of champions Western Province, who host the Golden Lions at Newlands the following day. The two coastal teams face each other in the final league match in Durban the following week, and it looks at this stage that it might be a play-off for the top of the log position and the right to host a possible final.
Sharks coach Brad MacLeod-Henderson has announced that the rotation selection policy of earlier in the season is now over, and the strongest team will be selected from now on. That sounds like an acknowledgement that Springboks such as Beast Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, plus Willem Alberts and Pat Lambie, will be included in the team for the Province match.
The Sharks had hoped to have lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, another member of the Bok squad, available for Loftus, but that plan changed when national coach Heyneke Meyer decided he needed Du Toit as cover for the suspended Flip van der Merwe. Either Du Toit or Franco van der Merwe will be named as a Bok replacement when the squad for the New Zealand Test at Ellis Park is announced on Wednesday.
Coetzee will only play off the bench as he won’t be available to train with the Sharks until Thursday, but the best team policy is expected to see Jacques Botes, who captained the side earlier in the season, and Jean Deysel return to the starting side. Tera Mtembu and Justin Downey are the players who faced the Lions last week who will stand down.
It looks as though the Sharks will continue with the young matchwinner Fred Zeilinger at flyhalf this week, but it will be interesting to see what they do when Lambie is available the following week.
Louis Ludik is back from injury but is unlikely to start for the Sharks as SP Marais is doing well at fullback and the Sharks seem excited about the midfield combination of Heimar Williams and Tim Whitehead.
“I think Heimar and Tim have worked really well together and struck up a good partnership in the midfield, which has worked nicely for us,” said MacLeod-Henderson.