DURBAN – Losing two World Cup-winning Springboks in one fell swoop would be a train smash for most coaches, but Sean Everitt has taken it in his stride as the Sharks prepare for a monumental Super Rugby Unlocked clash with the Cheetahs in Durban tomorrow night.
Captain Lukhanyo Am suffered a hand injury against the Pumas and will be out of action for a month, while the perennially unlucky Sbu Nkosi has picked up yet another niggle.
The latter has had a string of injuries over the last two seasons, probably because of the way he violently chucks his body at opposition players. He is a fearless player, but sadly injury prone.
Nkosi’s place on the right wing is taken by Yaw Penxe, the seriously talented Eastern Cape player who has joined the Sharks on loan after the Kings went belly up. He has been playing so well off the bench for the Sharks that he was probably going to get a start this week anyway, probably at fullback, but then Nkosi pulled up injured.
“Losing two Boks is not ideal but we have good replacements in Jeremy Ward (for Am) and Yaw … I said last week that Yaw is a special talent, so we are excited to see what he can do with this opportunity,” Everitt said after naming a team that has an unchanged pack and just those two forced backline changes.
“Jeremy has been in our system for a while. We also rested Lukhanyo in Super Rugby earlier this year and Jeremy fulfilled that role well. We were, in any case, going to give Lukhanyo a rest at some stage.”
The captaincy goes to experienced former Free Stater Henco Venter. It is a surprise choice to the public, but Everitt says it was an easy decision for him.
“Henco is one of those strong, silent leaders, and he showed strong leadership against the Pumas. We feel he is the right person to take the reins,” he said.
It is interesting to note that Everitt has made no changes to his forward pack despite the return to fitness of normally first-choice players in Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Kerron van Vuuren and Ruben van Heerden.
Everitt explained that he opted for continuity because the players that did the job against the Pumas deserve to continue.
“We worked really hard last week and the players stood up and showed an improvement, so I am sticking with them because of the effort they put in. Players need to be rewarded for good performances and I think they were outstanding, scoring three maul tries, earning scrum penalties and having dominance in the set pieces,” Everitt said.
Good for the coach, and it means three Under-21 players continue on merit against the Cheetahs in No 8 Phepsi Buthelezi, openside flank Dylan Richardson and lock JJ van der Mescht.
TEAMS FOR DURBAN
15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Jeremy Ward, 12 Marius Louw, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Phendulani Buthelezi, 7 Henco Venter (c), 6 Dylan Richardson 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 JJ van der Mescht, 3 John Hubert-Meyer, 2 Dan Jooste, 1 Ox Nche
Subs: 16 Kerron van Vuuren, 17 Mzamo Majola, 18 Michael Kumbirai, 19 Ruben van Heerden, 20 Thembelani Bholi, 21 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 22 Grant Williams, 23 Werner Kok
15 Clayton Blommetjies, 14 Malcolm Jaer, 13 William Small-Smith, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tian Schoeman, 9 Tian Meyer, 8 Aidon Davis, 7 Junior Pokomela (c), 6 Andisa Ntsila, 5 JP du Preez, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Luan de Bruin, 2 Reinach Venter, 1 Charles Marais
Subs: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Boan Venter, 18 Khutha Mchunu, 19 Oupa Mohoje, 20 Jeandre Rudolph, 21 Ruben de Haas, 22 Reinhardt Fortuin, 23 Chris Smit