With 13 players missing from the 23-man squad that beat the Stormers in their last Super Rugby game back in mid-March, Sharks coach Sean Everitt will be anxious that his team’s level of performance does not plummet into the depths of a virtual Kloof Gorge when they travel to Pretoria to take on the Bulls on SuperFan Saturday.
Everitt named his 30-man squad for the trip on Thursday and he will be leaning heavily on established combinations like Ox Nche and Thomas du Toit in the front row, locks Ruben van Heerden and Hyron Andrews, halfbacks Sanele Nohamba and Curwin Bosch, and Jeremy Ward and Lukhanyo Am in midfield.
“Saturday’s match is all about preparation, because we’ve been out for six months we need to reinstall and revise our game-plan. We need to make sure everyone understands it and we’re taking a few youngsters up with us to see where they are too in terms of fitting into our system. I’ll be looking at our tempo, accuracy and conditioning because we don’t know where we are right now with those.
“The players we have brought in suit the way we want to play. A guy like Manie Libbok is multiskilled, really versatile and has dangerous x-factor. He offers something in the same mould as Bosch and Aphelele Fassi when we play him at fullback. Werner Kok is also a workhorse and his work-rate epitomises the energy and enthusiasm we want to play with. He’ll start on the wing and then we’ll play him a bit at centre in the second half,” Everitt said on Thursday.
After such a promising season was washed down the basin by Covid-19, the Sharks are in a rebuilding phase and several new faces have the chance to establish themselves in the senior team. Saturday’s match at Loftus Versfeld is an important step in testing the depth of the squad.
“We were happy where we were, but we had been very fortunate from an injury point of view and were reaping the benefits of a long pre-season in which we did a lot of work on the changes to our game. We were on a roll, but dwelling in the past is not something I do, we are looking forward. It was sad for guys like Louis Schreuder, Tyler Paul and Andre Esterhuizen, who were in their last season with the Sharks.
“But it’s all a clean slate now, it’s a whole different competition because the Bulls have done some really good recruiting and the Lions too. We’re going back to the drawing board to see how we can improve. We’ve had some bad luck with injuries and we are missing some quality players like Fassi, Tambwe and Nkosi, but we started preparing a while ago with two squads,” Everitt said.
Players not considered for this weekend’s squad due to injury were fullback Fassi, loose forwards Henco and James Venter, hooker Kerron van Vuuren and wings Madosh Tambwe and Sbu Nkosi.
Squad: Ox Nche, Mzamo Majola, Dylan Richardson, Dan Jooste, Thomas du Toit, John-Hubert Meyer, Ruben van Heerden, JJ van der Mescht, Hyron Andrews, Emile van Heerden, Evan Roos, Adam Mountfort, Celimpilo Gumede, Tera Mtembu, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Phepsi Buthelezi, Grant Williams, Sanele Nohamba, Jaden Hendrikse, Curwin Bosch, Jordan Chait, Muller du Plessis, Caleb Dingaan, Jeremy Ward, Marius Louw, Lukhanyo Am, JP Pietersen, Werner Kok, Manie Libbok, Thaakir Abrahams.