Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold says the decision to start Joe Pietersen ahead of Garth April was a carefully considered selection, writes CRAIG LEWIS.
Gold has opted to hand the experienced Pietersen the No 10 jersey for the Sharks’ Super Rugby opener against the Kings on Saturday, with April set to play off the bench.
Although April impressed in the Sharks’ final pre-season clash against Toulouse in France, Gold said they felt it would be best to integrate the 24-year-old into Super Rugby off the bench.
‘There was a bit of debate whether to go with Garth or Joe, and it was on the selection table. I was happy with Garth’s performances in France, but you have to consider lots of factors … Garth’s progress has been fantastic, I’m very excited by what he can offer and he has that X factor, but we’ll slowly but surely bring him into the mix.
‘There’s no need to put him under undue pressure so early on. He’ll come off the bench and make an impact I’m sure. Inny Radebe is another player who I must say has been fantastic as well, so it’s still a position where there’s lots of competition even with Pat [Lambie] being out [injured], so that’s very good for us.’
While April will be looking to make a statement when he likely comes on in the second half, there will be a starting opportunity for young lock Hyron Andrews, who will be determined to make the step up in his Super Rugby debut.
With the talented Stephan Lewies still a week away from being ready to be considered for selection after a lengthy injury lay-off, Andrews will have a chance to lay claim to the No 5 jersey.
‘After such a serious injury, it’s important for Steph to have the confidence and peace of mind to play,’ Gold explained. ‘We have the big picture in mind, and didn’t want to rush him into action. But while it was a precautionary move, the decision was made easier because I’ve been so impressed by Hyron, he really put his hand up in France, and he deserves to be rewarded for that.’
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