Alberts starts as Sharks strengthen

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DURBAN — It doesn’t take the addition of too many names to make a team look significantly stronger from one week to the other — and that is the case with the Sharks team that will take on the MTN Lions in tomorrow’s Vodacom Super Rugby derby in Durban.

Indeed, when you have a player of Willem Alberts’s quality in your group it sometimes only requires one name, although the return of Tim Whitehead, based on early season form, is another big plus in the midfield, as is Odwa Ndungane’s selection on the right wing.

But it will be the selection straight into the starting team of Alberts that will most boost the Sharks as they go in search of their first win of the season in this replay of last year’s Currie Cup final.

Alberts missed out completely for last week’s game against the DHL Stormers after his body did not react well to his first contact after recovering from an off-season injury, but he came through this week without mishap and Sharks coach John Plumtree surprised by selecting the Springbok impact forward into his run on team rather than easing him back off the bench.

Alberts’s return to the No 7 jersey means the impressive Marcell Coetzee switches roles as he moves to openside for this game, with Jacques Botes dropping back to the bench. With Ryan Kankowski still out, Keegan Daniel again leads from No 8. The Sharks back row was good last week against the Stormers, but the barging presence of Alberts will add a dimension that was missing at Newlands and the combination has a good balance to it.

Whitehead returns to inside centre in place of Meyer Bosman, who was quite anonymous against the Stormers, after recovering from a minor groin injury that kept him from playing against his old teammates. And Ndungane plays his first match of the season after coming back from a sternum complaint.

As Ndungane is a specialist wing replacing a fullback playing wing in the form of Louis Ludik, this is another area where the Sharks team looks to have a better balance to it.

Plumtree is continuing with Wiehahn Herbst at tighthead after Jannie du Plessis failed to make an impression as a replacement against the Stormers. The form of the Springbok strongman should be a matter of grave concern to the Sharks coaches, particularly as they are missing their other Bok prop, Beast Mtawarira, who won’t be back until mid-season after suffering a broken leg in January.

Sharks team: Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Tim Whitehead, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Frederic Michalak, Keegan Daniel (captain), Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Ross Skeate, Steven Sykes, Wiehahn Herbst, Bismarck du Plessis, Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: Craig Burden, Jannie du Plessis, Anton Bresler, Jacques Botes, Charl McLeod, Meyer Bosman, Paul Jordaan. —Supersport