The Springboks have all returned to Currie Cup duty, despite The Rugby Championship recently completing proceedings at Soccer City, and most of the players will link up with provincial sides that are the nucleus of their Super Rugby franchises.
Aside from Pat Lambie’s inclusion in The Sharks starting line-up to face Griquas at Mr Price King's Park on Friday evening, a host of Boks have been included to play off the bench.
Coach John Plumtree has had no hesitation in throwing five of his returning Springboks into the match 22, but the players who have taken The Sharks to top of the log get rewarded for their efforts this time in a team that shows minimal changes to the side that beat Free State last weekend.
A rotational change at scrumhalf sees Cobus Reinach and Charl McLeod swapping roles with Lambie named at flyhalf in place of Meyer Bosman who will play off the bench in the only two changes to the backline.
Amongst the forwards, the only change is enforced with Pieter Dixon out with a broken arm and Kyle Cooper starting where he ended off last week with Craig Burden providing back-up off the bench. Tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis adds further depth for the front row while Marcell Coetzee and Lwazi Mvovo are two more returning Boks to be included.
With The Sharks in the healthy position they find themselves, the potential is exciting. They do, however, face a tough encounter against a fired-up Griquas’ side and the addition of experienced players to boost the Durban side will no doubt be valuable.
“JP was massive for us last week in Bloemfontein and having some of that experience back at this crucial time is fantastic,” coach John Plumtree admits.
“We’ve looked at every individual’s different situation, obviously we have some who have played more than others. We’ve had long conversations with our Boks and we’ve got to make sure we do what’s best for the team, so we have chosen our side accordingly.”
Meanwhile Blue Bulls coach Pine Pienaar has named all his returning Springboks involved in the Castle Rugby Championship for Saturday’s crucial Absa Currie Cup clash against the MTN Lions in Johannesburg.
The Blue Bulls need to win at Coca-Cola Park, most probably with a bonus point, in order to qualify for an away semi-final spot.
Zane Kirchner, Mornè Steyn, Flip van der Merwe, Juandrè Kruger and Francois Hougaard will all play in the competition for the first time this year.
Kirchner will start at fullback, Steyn will play at flyhalf and Kruger and Van der Merwe will lock the pack. Hougaard starts off the bench in a utility role which also allowed Pienaar the option of having five forwards on the bench.
Arno Botha, who joined the Springboks last week and missed the win over DHL Western Province, is back at No 8 and will be joined by a returning Jacques Potgieter, who played for the Blue Bulls in a solitary start three weeks ago.
Pienaar was very pleased on his selection options, but emphasized that the returning players do not guarantee success against the defending champions on their home turf.
“All the teams will use their returning Springboks this weekend, so we are not in a unique or fortunate position. We are privileged though to have guys back who really care about the daisy, the team and each other. We had no problem with the returning players slotting back in and I really look forward to the weekend. It is no secret that we are in dire straits in the competition, but if ever there were players I would have nominated to help, I have just named them in the team,” the coach said.