Jean-Luc back as Louis captains Sharks
Gavin Rich
October 11, 2018

Jean-Luc du Preez returns to the Sharks match day squad for the first time in several months as the Durbanites go in search of the win that will secure them a home Currie Cup semifinal when they visit Kimberley on Saturday.

The Springbok flanker has been out of rugby since June with a groin injury, but has made an opportune return to full fitness and will be eased back into rugby by playing off the bench in a squad captained for the first time by scrumhalf Louis Schreuder against Griquas. Du Preez should be ready to start in the semifinal round the following weekend.

A semifinal place is guaranteed for the Sharks but home ground advantage depends completely on them beating Griquas. If they beat Griquas with a bonus point and Western Province fluff their lines against the Blue Bulls on the same day and fail to even pick up a solitary log point, the Sharks could even leapfrog the Capetonians into top spot.

So the several changes that coach Robert du Preez has made for this match are significant as it is a must win match. There won’t be much element of rotation. One of the biggest changes comes to the captaincy, which has become necessary with Chiliboy Ralepelle dropping to the bench to accommodate Akker van der Merwe at hooker.

Bok coach Rassie Erasmus’ preference for Schalk Brits over Van der Merwe in his squad remains one of his most questionable selections and there is merit in Van der Merwe, who was in such outstanding form in Super Rugby and didn’t let the Boks down when he played for them earlier in the season, getting a start.

He is joined in the front-row for this game by Coenie Oosthuizen, who takes over at tighthead from Thomas du Toit, who moves to the bench. Oosthuizen has only recently returned to rugby since undergoing an operation following an injury sustained playing for the Boks last year. Although he has played a few games off the bench, this is his first start for the Sharks since 2017.

It will be interesting to see if Du Toit, as the only prop replacement, might come onto the field late in the game as a loosehead replacement for Juan Schoeman or whether he will be coming on at tighthead. Although he has made the conversion to tighthead and has spoken about specialising there, Du Toit and Oosthuizen were good in combination in the front row last season and it must be tempting for the coaches to find a way to reunite them in the playing team now that they are both available as the business end of the domestic season arrives.

Bok wing Sbu Nkosi is making his anticipated return to the starting team in this game after holding the tackle bags when he was a national squad member during the home leg of the Rugby Championship and he will be eager to make his mark as he goes out to remind Erasmus that he was the first choice No 14 before his injury. Cheslin Kolbe wore the No 14 jersey in the two home Championship tests but Erasmus explained that he didn't want to rush Nkosi back as he had been out since June.

The anticipated double switch of positions involving Curwin Bosch and Robert du Preez written about earlier in the week hasbeen confirmed. Bosch starts at flyhalf for the first time this season, with Aphelele Fassi taking his place at fullback, while Robert du Preez junior moves from flyhalf to inside centre in place of Marius Louw.

Another interesting selection is that of the giant under-19 lock JJ van der Mescht on the bench. Much is being expected of the outsize forward and there will be a lot of interest in his first appearance as a member of the Sharks’ senior squad.

Cell C Sharks team: Aphelele Fassi, Sbu Nkosi, Jeremy Ward, Robert du Preez, Lwazi Mvovo, Curwin Bosch, Louis Schreuder (captain), Daniel du Preez, Tyler Paul, Jacques Vermeulen, Hyron Andrews, Gideon Koegelenberg, Coenie Oosthuizen, Akker van der Merwe, Juan Schoeman. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Thomas du Toit, JJ van der Merscht, Jean-Luc du Preez, Grant Williams, Marius Louw, Kobus van Wyk.

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