Robert du Preez says picking the match 23 for Saturday’s semi-final against the Golden Lions was the toughest selection he’s had to make as Sharks coach.
Du Preez named his team on Thursday and surprisingly kept Springboks Jean-Luc du Preez and Coenie Oosthuizen on the bench in favour of starters Tyler Paul and Thomas du Toit. The coach opted to start with Akker van der Merwe, while Chiliboy Ralepelle warms the bench.
Addressing his selections, Du Preez said: ‘This was probably one of the most difficult selection meetings for me in the past three years. We had a lot of debate around that, but the guys – especially the loose trio – have done a good job for us over the past five weeks. We wanted to keep that continuity going.
‘Jean-Luc did really well when he came on against Griquas and we’re happy to play him off the bench again. It was a really big debate about [starting] Thomas or Coenie. We’re just in a fortunate position to have two great tightheads.
‘Hooker was another tough one. Again, you’ve got two Springboks in your squad, but we just believe Akker, playing against his old province, is the better option.’
But the move that has attracted the most attention is the coach’s decision switch Rob du Preez back to flyhalf with Curwin Bosch reverting to fullback.
‘I’ve always said a good No 10 should be able to play 12 and vice versa,’ said Du Preez Snr. ‘I think the experiment [of playing Rob at outside centre] was good and we’ll definitely consider it going forward.’
The coach also defended a music video featuring five Sharks players that hit social media this week. He says that it shows that his charges are relaxed ahead of the crunch clash over the weekend.
#OurSharks ARE BACK IN TOWN! We head into the clash at JONSSON KINGS PARK this weekend and are looking to ‘rock some bodies’ in the next step towards Currie Cup victory.#OurSharksForever pic.twitter.com/NO0K8CoTwA
— The Sharks (@TheSharksZA) October 16, 2018
‘Obviously, they will get nervous because some of them haven’t played in a final before. Winning trophies gives players confidence. That’s what any young, inexperienced team needs. But there’s a fantastic spirit in the team and it’s been great to see the boys having fun on and off the field as well.’
— SA Rugby magazine (@SARugbymag) October 18, 2018
Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images