Springbok resting protocols will allow numerous Sharks fringe players to cash in on a lengthy playing opportunity when a much-changed team travels to Johannesburg to take on the Lions in their Rainbow Cup match on Saturday.
Coach Sean Everitt announced a team yesterday with 10 changes to the starting line-up that went down to the Stormers a fortnight ago. That includes a new front row, the return of Hyron Andrews at lock, two new loose forwards and four changes to the backline, one of which is the return of Springbok wing Makazole Mapimpi.
With the Currie Cup confirmed to start on 18 June and the Rainbow Cup final being played the next day, as well as the Sharks set to lose a large number of players to the Springbok squad, the jostling for starting spots in the team is increasing.
“The selection is very much about supporting the Springboks’ resting protocols, but it’s a good opportunity for other guys who we may be working with for a lengthy period, maybe until December,” Everitt said.
“We do have the players to cover and most of them have been in the 23-man squad anyway. This is not a young and inexperienced team. It’s just starting is a different role for them.
“The match-day squad is not that different to the one against the Stormers (15/23) and it’s amazing the difference it makes to morale when everyone knows they’re going to get a shot.
“There has been good energy, a lot of excitement and attention in training this week. We know we have great depth, we are a vastly improved squad and the more the exposure the better the players will be for it.”
Apart from resting protocols, Covid is also a massive factor in rugby today and Everitt’s plans of giving his first-choice front row of Fez Mbatha, Ox Nche and Thomas du Toit a complete rest this week were dashed when his third-choice trio of Khwezi Mona, Michael Kumbirai and Dan Jooste were all in contact with someone in the Toyota Invitation XV who tested positive after their friendly match against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last week.
It means Mbatha, Nche and Du Toit will have to sit on the bench on Saturday, and against a rock-solid Lions scrum, one would not bet against them having to come on and play a key role if the Sharks are to maintain their challenge for the Rainbow Cup title.