Muller blow for Sharks
May 8, 2008

Injuries, return to fitness and rotation have all played a part in the Sharks' team announced by Dick Muir today to play the Cheetahs at The Absa Stadium Durban on Saturday, with the tough news that captain Johann Muller has been ruled out of the match.

His place will be taken by Johan Ackermann who has come up from Cape Town where he has been based and has been kindly released by his company Kepu Petroleum for the remainder of the tournament.

AJ Venter will captain the side in Muller's absence, while the front row gets a boost with the return of Bismarck du Plessis who missed last week's game.

Craig Burden performed admirably last week against the Crusaders in a real test of ability and character, but du Plessis, as a Springbok hooker, has the inside track on the number two jersey. In other changes, Adrian Jacobs (pictured) gets his first start of the season having made the super-sub role his own - he will play at outside centre. After missing the last two matches, Bradley Barritt returns to the starting 22 and will play off the bench - a five-two split.

The Sharks Coach admitted that the pressure is on the Sharks with two matches remaining in the pool stages. "The position we are faced with is that nine teams could qualify for the semis which shows what a great competition this is, where it is right down to the wire again.

"It could be like two years ago where it was down to points' difference, which is not quite the position where we wanted to be. I'm told that the Cheetahs aren't out to do us any favours so it should be a great game."

Muir gave fans some food for thought in explaining what an exciting game it should be. "From an SA rugby perspective, it's a game to look forward to, some real talent on display where we have everything to lose and Cheetahs have nothing to lose. We also need to maximize the points we can achieve, we're going out to play."

Despite their log position, it would be foolhardy to underestimate the Cheetahs and the Sharks are well-aware that their ambitions could be stymied by the Boys from Bloem.

"The Cheetahs have been there or thereabouts all season and have played a positive style even though they are lurking near the bottom of the table," explained Muir.

He also pointed out that the Sharks are on an upswing. "We'd like to improve on our Crusaders performance - that was a big improvement from the Waratahs game - and we want to grow that, particularly our phase play as well as the level of retention and respect for the ball."

15. Stefan Terblanche
14. Odwa Ndungane
13. Adrian Jacobs
12. Francois Steyn
11. JP Pietersen
10. Ruan Pienaar
9. Rory Kockott
8. Ryan Kankowski
7. AJ Venter ( Capt )
6. Jacques Botes
5. Johan Ackermann
4. Albert van den Berg
3. Brendon Botha
2. Bismarck du Plessis
1. Tendai Mtawarira

16. Craig Burden
17. Jannie du Plessis
18. Steven Sykes
19. Jean Deysel
20. Keegan Daniel
21. Bradley Barritt
22. Waylon Murray


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