The Sharks will take on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein in their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign with arguably the strongest side available to them and will be captained by Francois Steyn.
Coach John Plumtree said that he had very tough decisions to make in naming the team and of course to find the right balance as some positions had atleast two players fighting it out for the jersey.
What was evident is that Plumtree went for youth, experience and mobility and if one takes two positions as an example, at scrumhalf you have the youth and flair of Cobus Reinach with Charl McLeod providing cover off the bench and amongst the loose forwards he went with Ryan Kankowski, back from a six month stint in Japan and starting at No 8, alongside fellow loose forwards Jacques Botes and Marcell Coetzee with Jean Deysel providing cover off the bench.
Coetzee might only have 23 caps, but he has represented the Springboks 12 times already, despite being just 21 years of age, while Botes and Kankowski boast nearly 200 caps between them (Botes is a centurion himself).
In the second row, Anton Bresler partners Franco van der Merwe, which hopefully will settle the line-out woes that faced the Sharks towards the end of last season and no real surprises in the backline as it is pretty much as expected with Pat Lambie at flyhalf, Frans Steyn partnering Paul Jordaan in the midfield and Springboks JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo out wide, with Louis Ludik completing the line-up at fullback.
“It was a case of the experience factor with the tight five I’ve chosen” said the Sharks coach. “The way the Cheetahs play influenced a lot of the selections, they have a lot of speed and genuine threats in their backline and we have to be able to match that defensively.”
“We’ve picked a side that has the most experience for the occasion. Scrumhalf was a horses for courses selection in terms of the strengths I require for the day.”
1. Tendai Mtawarira 2. Craig Burden 3. Jannie du Plessis 4. Anton Bresler 5. Franco van der Merwe 6. Jacques Botes 7. Marcell Coetzee 8. Ryan Kankowski 9. Cobus Reinach 10. Patrick Lambie 11. Lwazi Mvovo 12. Francois Steyn (Captain) 13. Paul Jordaan 14. JP Pietersen 15. Louis Ludik
Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper 17. Wiehahn Herbst 18. Pieter-Steph du Toit 19. Jean Deysel 20. Charl McLeod 21. Meyer Bosman 22. Odwa Ndungane.