Beast returns, Bosch out of Sharks-Stormers clash

Beast returns, Bosch out of Sharks-Stormers clash

Beast Mtawarira makes a welcome return to the Cell C Sharks starting lineup, while injuries to Curwin Bosch and Ruan Botha force changes for the clash against the Stormers.

Beast Mtawarira
AFP/Anesh Debiky

The Durban outfit head to Cape Town this weekend knowing that a win, by a big margin, is required if they are to secure a spot in the Super Rugby playoffs.

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There is no doubt that coach Robert du Preez would have loved to have the biggest guns in his arsenal available for their final match of the round robin stages, but the rugby gods have had the final say this week.

Both sides are in the same boat with injuries to key players, although the Sharks have more players side-lined this week.

Springbok flyhalf, Curwin Bosch has been ruled out after having picked up a minor ankle strain in the Sharks’ loss to the Jaguares last weekend. The good news is that coach Du Preez has confirmed it is not as serious as initially thought and Bosch should be available next week -- if the Sharks can book a spot in the quarterfinals.

Springbok flank Jean-Luc du Preez has not recovered from an MCL strain and is unavailable. Lock Ruan Botha is also out with a foot problem, while Philip van der Walt is also injured and hooker Akker van der Merwe will not feature either.

Craig Burden, who re-joined the Sharks side this season has arguably had the worst luck of all the Sharks players this season. He is yet to make his return to the Black and White having picked up niggles over the weeks in training sessions. A hamstring strain suffered in last week’s captain’s run means he is also unavailable for the Stormers clash this weekend.

“I really feel so sorry for Craig, he is devastated,” the Sharks coach told East Coast Radio on Thursday.

“We came through last week in the lead up to the Jaguares match and then he got a niggle again. Hopefully we’ll get him right and if everything goes to plan he’ll be ready for the tour.”

The Sharks do have Springbok veteran Beast Mtawarira back this week to bolster the front row and scrumhalf Cameron Wright has also returned to the match day 23.

All eyes on Robert du Preez Jr

There has been plenty of media spotlight on the current form of Robert du Preez Junior. The flyhalf started last week against the Jaguares in a move that saw Curwin Bosch shift to fullback.

The latter had put in some impressive performances in the number 10 jumper in the weeks leading up to that game and some pundits questioned the decision to make a change.

Given the quality of their opposition, Du Preez said a decision was made to ensure the Sharks had as much experience in their starting XV as possible.

“In this game specifically against the Jaguares the thought process was that it was going to be a Test match. We needed experience at 10 and at 15 and both players have played at the highest level and both have great decision making and great kicking games.”

It is fair to say that Du Preez Jr has had a dip in form in this year’s competition which may have been exacerbated by what has been a busy 12 months. The Sharks coach conceded that his eldest son had played more rugby than they would have liked at the beginning of the Super Rugby campaign.

“We know that he played a lot of rugby. He went to Sale for that short stint and came back. We wanted to manage him a little bit better at the beginning of the year and the plan was not to play him in the first couple of games. Then Curwin got injured and wasn’t available for those games so Rob started playing. Like all rugby players, sometimes you have a dip in form,” the coach said.

With Bosch ruled out of Saturday’s clash at Newlands, the spotlight is now on Du Preez Jr to step up and put in a solid performance in the number 10 jumper.

“This is a big one, he knows what is expected and he knows what is at stake and so does the rest of the team. It’s not going to come down to one guy, its going to be a team effort from all 23 players,” Du Preez said.

Understrength Stormers?

The Sharks injury list is fairly long but the Stormers also have some big name players out for this weekend’s clash.

Most notably, Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit has been ruled out for a lengthy period of time while impressive scrumhalf Herschelle Jantjies won’t be available due to injury as well. Fellow Bok lock Eben Etzebeth is also out for a number of weeks with a broken hand.

Despite the fact that the Stormers will not have a couple of their big name players available, the Sharks coach is not underestimating the hosts this week.

“They’re still a formidable side, they’ve played really well at Newlands this year. I think they’ve only lost one game there against the Brumbies. They’re a proud team with a proud record. It’s not going to be easy; it’s going to be a real South African derby match with all to play for.”

The Sharks performances this year have been inconsistent but a hallmark of their play has been their physicality. They certainly weren’t lacking any of that in their loss to the Jaguares, but Du Preez is calling on his team to be more clinical when they’re in the red zone.

“We created a lot of opportunities (against the Jaguares); we went into their 22 something like 15 times. Our execution let us down. They are a team that is playing good rugby, their defence has been outstanding and when they get opportunities they take them and score tries.”

The Sharks are currently ninth on the Super Rugby log and need a win this weekend to have any hope of making the knockout stages of the competition.

Kickoff at Newlands is at 15:05.

Sharks team:

15 Aphelele Fassi, 14 S'bu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder (captain), 8 Daniel du Preez, 7 Tyler Paul, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.

Substitutes: 16 Cullen Collopy, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Gideon Koegelenberg, 20 Luke Stringer, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Rhyno Smith

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