With Lukhanyo Am injured and Henco Venter unavailable for this match, Sean Everitt has had to choose his third captain in as many games, and the armband has gone to Jeremy Ward.
THE Sharks have shrugged off suggestions that they have been adversely affected by the non-availability of three first-choice players for their visit to Kimberley where they will face the Tafel Lager Griquas on Friday night at 7pm.
One Sharks player returned a positive test result on Wednesday afternoon and two others who had been in close contact with that player were also sent into isolation, but coach Sean Everitt says his team was able to train as per normal and the depth in the squad would cover the losses.
“It didn’t really affect our preparations as we were able to train fully on Monday, and on Wednesday it actually helped us that we could not train in the morning (while waiting for the laboratory results) because the field was waterlogged (it cleared in the late afternoon for training),” Everitt said after naming a team that has five changes from the side that beat the Cheetahs last week.
Everitt has had to choose his third captain in as many games – Lukhanyo Am is injured and last week’s captain, Henco Venter is unavailable for this match – and the armband has gone to Jeremy Ward.
The young centre has extensive captaincy experience, having led the SA Under-20 team in 2016, and last year he co-captained the Sharks in the Currie Cup along with Tera Mtembu.
Everitt said that an analysis of the Monday training session had helped the management team to identify the players most at risk from having been in contact with the positive player.
“You never know how many people have been infected but we looked at our session and fortunately there was not a lot of contact,” he said. “Unfortunately, these things are sometimes out of your control, and you just need to focus on the job at hand.”
Everitt confirmed that of the three players out of the match, one was due to start and the other two would have played off the bench.
“That is not too many in the bigger scheme of things. We have been rotating our squad and everybody has been getting game time, so that is an advantage for us.”
After playing off the bench for the last three games, hooker Kerron van Vuuren will make his first start of the tournament in a rotational change with Dan Jooste, while Ruben van Heerden is back in the second row after two starts for JJ van der Mescht, who will also play off the bench.
In the back row, Thembelani Bholi has earned his first start after two impressive performances as a substitute, while James Venter returns from injury to the starting line-up in place of Dylan Richardson, with Phepsi Buthelezi completing the loose trio at No 8.
There is a Sharks debut at fullback for former Griqua Anthony Volmink, who last week joined the squad. There is also a likely debut off the bench for former Pumas and Griquas prop Khwezi Mona.
Springbok wing Sbu Nkosi has recovered from injury and is among the substitutes.
Meanwhile, Griquas head coach Scott Mathie spoke to the DFA and said they were under no illusions of the challenge they are facing. “(It’s) going to be another tough fixture. The Sharks thrive on broken play and will look to put us under pressure through line speed on defence and their kicking game,” he said.
“We are looking for a more composed performance on attack where we can be more patient with ball in hand.
“Defensively though is most important for us, we will need to get more width on defence and work harder on slowing down their ball in the tackle. I’m looking for a much improved performance from the players this weekend,” the coach added.
Griquas (15-1): Masixole Banda, Ederies Arendse , Harlon Klaasen, Johnathan Franke, Eduan Keyter, George Whitehead (c), Zak Burger, Johan Momsen, Stefan Willemse, Gideon van der Merwe, Cameron Lindsay, Adré Smith, Ewald van der Westhuizen, HJ Luus, Mox Mxoli. Bench: Monde Hadebe, Andrew Beerwinkel, Madot Mabokela, Carl Els, CJ Vellerman, Theo Maree, Tinus de Beer, Daniel Kasende, Bandisa Ndlovu, Ewan Coetzee, Ashlon Davids,
Sharks (15-1): Anthony Volmink, Yaw Penxe, Jeremy Ward (c), Marius Louw, Madosh Tambwe, Curwin Bosch, Sanele Nohamba, Phepsi Buthelezi, Thembelani Bholi, James Venter, Hyron Andrews, Ruben van Heerden, John-Hubert Meyer, Kerron van Vuuren, Ox Nche. Bench: Dan Jooste, Mzamo Majola, Khwezi Mona, Juan John (JJ) van der Mescht, Dylan Richardson, Cameron Wright, Manie Libbok, Sbu Nkosi.
Additional reporting by Dave Alexander