Ex-Pumas loose forward Renaldo Bothma returns to the Cell C Sharks starting line-up in place of the injured Willem Alberts for their Vodacom SuperRugby match against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday after director of rugby Gary Gold announced a team with four changes on Thursday.
Alberts, who returned to action last weekend against the Stormers after a lengthy rehabilitation following a back operation, is now suffering from a tight hamstring and a po-faced Gold said he hoped the Springbok battering ram would only be out for a couple of weeks.
The Sharks scrum has been the centre of attention following their convincing defeat by the Stormers and Gold has responded to the threat the Cheetahs pose in that set-piece by choosing his first-choice front row, Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira returning to join fellow Springbok Bismarck du Plessis.
Hard-working lock Mouritz Botha also returns to the starting line-up, displacing Lubabalo ‘Giant’ Mtyanda.
After losing three of their first four games, now’s the time for the Sharks to finally click and start playing like the Springbok-laden team they are, and Gold believes their strategy has been right, but the execution has let them down.
“It’s been a disappointing start, not what we expected, and the team is learning some harsh lessons. But there’s been no lack of effort, I have a lot of confidence in the players, they badly want to put it right and they just have to man-up and fight again.
“You always question where you went wrong, was it the plan or was it the execution? We’ve seen that the plan can work, but when you lose, it gets put under even more of a microscope. It’s fine to question the plan, but you don’t want to panic and just start changing it. We want to play ball-in-hand rugby, we want to attack more, in the right areas of the field,” Gold said on Thursday.
The Sharks and Cheetahs played against each other in the opening weekend of SuperRugby action in Durban, and the Central franchise wrecked the KwaZulu-Natalians’ set-piece, something that Gold acknowledges cannot happen again on Saturday if the Sharks are to win.
“The set-piece wasn’t good enough last time we played the Cheetahs and we can’t take them lightly. They’re a good team with ball-in-hand, and they have dangerous broken-field runners, especially their back three. And they play with a lot of width, especially in Bloemfontein. But we need to concentrate on what we do best and not worry about trends,” Gold said.
Team: 15-SP Marais, 14-Odwa Ndungane, 13-JP Pietersen, 12-Francois Steyn, 11-Lwazi Mvovo, 10-Pat Lambie, 9-Cobus Reinach, 8-Ryan Kankowski, 7-Renaldo Bothma, 6-Marcell Coetzee, 5-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4-Mouritz Botha, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements – 16-Kyle Cooper, 17-Dale Chadwick/Thomas du Toit, 18-Lourens Adriaanse, 19-Marco Wentzel, 20-Tera Mtembu, 21-Conrad Hoffmann, 22-Andre Esterhuizen, 23-Jack Wilson.