Frans Steyn okay for Sharks - for now
CENTRE Frans Steyn will make his first appearance for the Sharks in Super rugby since 2009 when he faces the Bulls at King's Park tonight, but it could be one of only two games he'll play for them this season.
The Sharks, if they beat the Bulls tonight and the Cheetahs next week, will reach the playoffs. But Steyn won't feature in the play-offs. He was not part of the registered Sharks squad in early February and for that reason he cannot represent the side after the pool stage.
Only in extreme circumstances, such as the Sharks proving they have no other centre options because of injury or suspension, would he be eligible. To prove that would require some inventiveness by the Sharks.
So it seems Steyn's primary role will be to help ensure that the Sharks reach the last six and then sit on the sidelines.
Steyn's match up with Bulls centre Wynand Olivier will be worth watching as there are also markers to be laid down for the Bok No12 jersey.
The Sharks go into the match without injured battering-ram flank Willem Alberts and their elusive fullback Pat Lambie.
But the Durban team still has some good depth in both positions, with an all-Springbok back row in Ryan Kankowski, Marcell Coetzee and Keegan Daniel. The Sharks have a wrecking ball in flank Jean Deysel on the bench, while the all-Bok front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis will ensure they have the necessary grunt to contain the Bulls pack.
The Bulls are still chasing a home play-off match and only a win tonight will keep that goal on track.
The Bulls have a formidable pack boasting eight Springboks, while their starting backline includes another six Boks. Only centre JJ Engelbrecht hasn't been selected at test level.
Considering the class of the players and the prizes at stake for the winners, it promises to be one of the most thunderous and uncompromising clashes of the season. The Stormers, who top the South African conference on 58 points, could wrap up the league and secure a home semifinal with a five-point haul against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Considering they have not scored four tries in a match yet, it's hard to see them suddenly producing a feast of tries, though the Cheetahs are a side that has a porous defence.
The Stormers' pack is still not at full strength. with a host of injuries cutting coach Allister Coetzee's options. But Cheetahs' coach Naka Drotske is also picking fringe players, making it difficult to see how the home team could pull off a win.
The Lions complete the weekend's fixtures with a match against the Melbourne Rebels at Ellis Park. Neither side is in contention for the play-offs.