THE Sharks swap relatively balmy Durban for the freezing weather of Welkom to start the second half of their 2008 season against the Northern Free State Griffons tonight.
This compulsory friendly is a warm-up, if that be the word, for their Currie Cup season, which starts next Friday when Western Province take on the Sharks at King’s Park.
The Sharks, with greater depth than they had last year when they reached the semi-finals, now have John Plumtree as their official head coach. Grant Bashford, his assistant, will be in charge tonight as Plumtree is still recovering from painful back surgery and is unable to make the long bus trip.
Rory Kockott, Stefan Terblance, Johann Muller and Frederic Michalak are missing, but the Sharks still have plenty of Super 14 experience in their squad with the inclusion of burly and talented lock Steven Sykes on the flank perhaps the most interesting selection.
Plumtree conceded that selection errors were made in the Super 14 semi-final (lost to the Waraths) “but that’s all in the past now”.
“With me coming in, things will change. Naturally I would like to improve on what Dick [Muir] put in place,” he told the Sharks website.
The Griffons have beefed up their squad with former Bok Friedrich Lombard on the wing and nine former Free State Vodacom Cup players, who have moved from Bloemfontein, along with sevens Springboks Jonathan Mokuena and fullback Fabien Juries included tonight.
Sharks: Chris Jordaan, Danie Dames, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss, Henno Mentz, Bradley Barritt (capt), Scott Mathie, Jean Deysel, Steven Sykes, Jacques Botes, Albert van den Berg, Alistair Hargreaves, Jannie du Plessis, Craig Burden, Deon Carstens.
Replacements: Skipper Badenhorst, Melusi ‘Burra’ Mtetwa, Schalk van Jaarsveld, Skholiwe Ndlovu, Jacques Potgieter, Charl McLeod, Andrew Borgen, Rian Swanepoel, Luzuko Vulindlu, Lwazi Mvovo, Dumisani Matyeshana.
Griffons: Fabien Juries, Shane Hancke, Philip Snyman, Berndt Theissinger, Friedrich Lombard; Johann van Niekerk, Danny Theron, Jonathan Mokuena, Ockie van Zyl, Albert Parsons, Isak van der Westhuizen, Windpomp van Rooyen, Jaco Louw, Hercu Liebenberg, Sarel Louw (capt).
Replacements: Romano Sibiya, Gert Greyling, Tros Botha, Sandile India, Niekie Steyn, Shaun Botha, Bolla Abrahams, Werner Griesel, Juan de Witt.
Kick-off: 7 pm.