Watson, the designated squad captain, sustained a throat injury during the Kings’ historic debut match in which they beat the Western Force at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and will be under pressure to validate his selection. He has not played in two months, but in his absence the team has progressed smoothly.
Though there is no denying Watson’s talent and skill, eyebrows have been raised at his immediate elevation into the starting line-up at the expense of the superb Jacques Engelbrecht and Devin Oosthuizen.
Sharks coach John Plumtree has shaken things up for his team’s battle for top spot in the SA conference against the Cheetahs in Durban tomorrow by axing fullback Frans Steyn and No 8 Ryan Kankowski and resting tighthead Jannie du Plessis.
The Sharks are also without the injured JP Pietersen, which is a huge blow for the SA log leaders, while they are still searching for a ball-carrying option to dovetail with Marcell Coetzee. The inclusion of Jean Deysel after injury should provide them with another option, while lock Pieter-Steph du Toit is also growing into that role.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske once again made consistent selections, more out of necessity than choice.
Prop Coenie Oosthuizen makes his first start of the season in place of the injured Trevor Nyakane while flank Lappies Labu- schagne, No8 Philip van der Walt, lock Francois Uys, prop Lourens Adriaanse, hooker Adriaan Strauss, centres Robert Ebersohn and Johann Sadie, wings Raymond Rhule and Willie le Roux, and fullback Hennie Daniller all start their ninth consecutive match.
The Cheetahs have lost their past five meetings against the Sharks and last week saw their run of five consecutive victories in 2013 ended by the Bulls. They’re starting to feel the effects of their heavy schedule but know that another strong defensive effort could lead to success.
The Sharks, outside of scoring 10 tries against the Rebels in a single match, have only crossed the chalk three times in their other six games. It’s a worrying statistic for Plumtree but one that will give the Cheetahs a lift.
The last time the Cheetahs beat the Sharks was on February 19 2010 at Kings Park. On that day, Riaan Viljoen scored a superb solo try and kicked two penalty goals.
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