Sharks’ big guns out for Crusaders

Sharks coach Dick Muir wasted no time in drafting back his big guns for the Super 14 Round Five match against the six-time Super Rugby champions, the Crusaders, in Durban on Saturday.

The team shows six changes from that which accounted for the Highlanders in Round Three, but the big fish that return to the Sharks tank are veteran Springbok lock Johan Ackermann, Springbok captain and hooker John Smit, along with seasoned Bok fly-half Butch James.

This trio will not only add some much needed steel to the side, but against a Crusaders outfit that is fast regaining it’s most destructive form they will also bring some much needed experience of big games.

The changes see Odwa Ndungane return to the Sharks team for his first Super 14 game of the year, after sitting out the first three weeks with injury, and Waylon Murray moving to outside centre in place of Adrian Jacobs – who drops down to the bench.

James returns to the number 10 jersey in the place of the injured Francois Steyn, who will be sidelined for a couple of weeks with an ankle injury.

Jacques Botes, who sat on the bench against the Highlanders, return to the starting XV in the place of veteran Warren Britz, who drops down to the bench.

Ackermann, who also missed the first three rounds through injury and made his competitive comeback for the Wildebeest in a Vodacom Cup game last week, replaces young Steven Sykes at lock. And Smit, who sat on the bench last week, comes into the number two jersey in place of Bismarck du Plessis.

Muir has named what appears to be his most powerful starting XV for this crucial game – an encounter which could easily determine their season. Victory will no doubt put them firmly on the path to the play-offs. Defeat could also derail their campaign.

The bench also show a few changes.

Missing out this week are prop Kees Lensing and Bobby Skinstad.
“Kees [Lensing] has been playing off the bench and will get game time with the Wildebeest this weekend,” Muir said.

“Steven Sykes has done a fantastic job, and with Ackers [Ackermann] coming back from injury, his experience is what we needed in this game.

“In the case of Bobby [Skinstad] it won’t help him to be on the bench, so he will also play for the Wildebeest. Keegan Daniel got game time, so he’s back in the squad.”

Last week the Sharks enjoyed a bye, and while there are suggestion that a mid-season break can disrupt a team’s rhythm, Muir is confident his charges will be up for the challenge.

“There is a lovely buzz about,” Muir said. “The bye probably came at the right time for us. There is a lot of energy and the guys are upbeat about the game.”

Sharks: 15 Percy Montgomery, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Brad Barritt, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Butch James, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 AJ Venter, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Johan Ackermann, 3 BJ Botha, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Deon Carstens
Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Beast Mtawarira, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Warren Britz, 20 Keegan Daniel, 21 Rory Kockott, 22 Adrian Jacobs

Date: Saturday, 3 March
Venue: ABSA Stadium, Durban
Kick-off: 17.00 (15.00 GMT)
Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia)
Touch judges: Dan Cheever (Australia), Christie du Preez (South Africa)
Television match official: Shaun Veldsman (South Africa)
Assessor: Arrie Schoonwinkel (South Africa), Tony Dunlop (New Zealand)

 

365 Digital

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