Sharks beef up pack with Alberts in the second row
SHARKS coach John Plumtree has decided that accommodating battering ram Willem Alberts against the Reds is vital, but not at the expense of breaking up what has been a successful loose trio.
With Ryan Kankowski, Marcell Coetzee and Keegan Daniel making up a formidable back row, Alberts will start at lock for the first time this season, although he has played in the second row at various stages in earlier matches.
Saturday's Super 15 play-off against the Australian champions in Brisbane is a time to pull out all the stops and Alberts' inclusion at lock is a sign that the Sharks will be trying to impose themselves from the word go.
It gives the Sharks some great ball-carrying options, with Coetzee and hooker Bismarck du Plessis also providing go forward.
Louis Ludik is in at fullback for the injured Pat Lambie, while South African under-20 star Paul Jordaan will play at centre in Frans Steyn's absence. Steyn is ineligible for the match as he only signed with the Sharks last month.
"The Reds are the defending champions, a championship side that knows how to win this tournament," said Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford.
"And at home they'll have huge support. We'll certainly have our hands full but it's a challenge the boys are looking forward to. We played them in Durban in the pool stages and had the upper hand [winning 27-22 in March] so we believe we can do it. It's just about getting our act together and getting it right on the day."
Bashford said that if anything, the Sharks were stronger than the last time the two sides met.
"A lot of our key players, such as Willem Alberts, [Tendai] Beast Mtawarira and Ryan Kankowski have come back from injury and are playing well, so we're certainly in a better position now than we were earlier in the tournament.
"If we play well, we can beat any side in the tournament as we showed in our games against the Stormers and Bulls. The real trick is replicating those kinds of performances.
"It's just about getting ourselves organised and getting ready for the game. And if we get everything right we have a very good chance of continuing in this tournament."
The Sharks arrived in Australia a lot later than planned and in a city they hadn't expected to be playing in until some surprising results last weekend.
But the Sharks will still have nearly five days to overcome their marathon trip - a two-hour delay in Johannesburg and a missed connection from Sydney forced the team to split in two for flights north on Monday. - Additional reporting by Sapa-AP
Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Tim Whitehead, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (capt), 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Willem Alberts, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Steven Sykes, 19 Jacques Botes, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Meyer Bosman, 22 Odwa Ndungane.