Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sharks update: Likely Team to Face Chiefs

This courtesy of IOL

Fine-tuning the Sharks
Mike Greenaway
February 07 2006 at 10:54AM

Amid the misty rain at the Absa Stadium on Monday night, the Sharks team to play the Chiefs on Saturday emerged and, as promised by Dick Muir, the line-up will show subtle changes to the teams that had mixed fortunes in the warm-up games against the Bulls and Cats.

Muir said he would not completely show his hand in those matches and that much has held true, especially as far as the forwards are concerned.

The likely second row combination of Johan Ackermann and Johann Muller has not played together before, and nor has the probable front row of BJ Botha, Skipper Badenhorst and Heinke van der Merwe. AJ Venter, who played lock in the warm-ups, is back on the flank in combination with Warren Britz (openside) and Jacques Botes (No 8). The recovery of Ackermann from injury is a big boost for the Sharks pack. He may be 35 but that is okay for second row duty and the former Bok made a big impression against the Bulls at Sun City.


He never played against the Cats after an accidental forearm smash from Venter in lineout training split open his left eyebrow.

The name Heinke van der Merwe will be a new one to Sharks fans
For his "sins", Venter had to play lock against the Cats in place of Ackermann when it had originally been Muir's intention to try Venter on the flank in that game. In the blindside flanker role, Venter will add much needed aggression to the Sharks' rucking at the breakdowns, the one area that the Bulls thoroughly dominated at Sun City.

The name Heinke van der Merwe will be a new one to Sharks fans, but it is likely to gain familiarity soon. The powerful South Africa Under-21 prop was overlooked by the Cats, who have preferred 36-year-old veteran Marius Hurter.

The Sharks then drafted Van der Merwe into their squad and he scrummed well against the Cats in Rustenburg. His presence is all the more welcome after the injury to Deon Carstens in the Bulls game.

Skipper Badenhorst seems to have edged out youngster Jody Jenneker in the battle for the No 2 jersey. Badenhorst had a fine game against the Cats and his abrasive play resulted in the Cats forwards singling him out for special attention. Badenhorst got some unwelcome studs in his head for his trouble and left the field with blood streaming down his face.

In the backline there had been debate over the fullback and wing positions. Samoan Alex Tuilagi's challenge for the right wing berth seems to have come to an end and the man who ran in that position last night was 19-year-old Dusty Noble, with Henno Mentz on the left wing.

Noble probably played his way into possession with a superb individual try against the Cats. He showed extreme pace and then excellent ball skills when he chipped over opposite number Grant Esterhuizen, gathered and scored. He is likely to play alongside his cousin, JP Pietersen, who ran freely at training on Monday night, showing no discomfort from the hamstring injury (sustained against the Bulls) that threatened to keep him out of the opening Super 14 fixture.

Pietersen is competing with Brent Russell, who has also been injured, for the No 15 jersey. Russell did not train on Monday night, which suggests he may be out of the reckoning. Muir will confirm his team tonight. The Wildebeest team to play the Eagles in George in a Vodacom Cup match on Saturday will be packed with the young players that made such a big impression in the warm-up matches in Rustenburg and at Sun City.

Possible Sharks team:
JP Pietersen, Dusty Noble, Gcobani Bobo, Andries Strauss, Henno Mentz, Percy Montgomery, Ruan Pienaar, Jacques Botes, AJ Venter, Warren Britz, Johan Ackerman, Johann Muller, BJ Botha, Skipper Badenhorst, Heinke van der Merwe.

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