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Rugby | Vodacom Super Rugby

Andre Esterhuizen © Gallo Images

Esterhuizen in frame for Lions clash

The Cell C Sharks are expected to have the powerful Andre Esterhuizen in their midfield for Saturday’s big Vodacom Super Rugby opener against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.

Esterhuizen was one of the Super Rugby players – Philip van der Walt and Stephan Lewies are others – missing from the Sharks’ impressive Currie Cup challenge in 2017. Although the Durbanites didn’t win the competition and were well beaten by Western Province in the final, they did better than they have in the league phase for several seasons and ended top of the log.

Marius Louw was impressive in the No 12 jersey in the Currie Cup and has certainly marked himself down as a player capable of performing at Super Rugby level. Jeremy Ward is also an excellent midfield talent and when he did get a chance to play last year, he showed signs that he is rapidly maturing.

However, judging from what Sharks coaching consultant Dick Muir told Durban reporters at the start of the build-up week, it looks like the 103 kilogram powerhouse, who hails initially from Klerksdorp, is going to get game time against the Lions.

“Andre played a lot of rugby in Japan so we felt it was not a good idea to use him for the Racing trip so that we could keep him fresh for this opening game against the Lions,” said Muir.

Louw was the inside centre in the game that Muir was referring to, which was the Hong Kong clash with French club Racing 92 the weekend before last. Louw was also at inside centre for the previous warm-up game against the Bulls.

With Robert du Preez likely to wear the flyhalf jersey, the Sharks will certainly boast plenty of physicality in the 10/12 axis. With Du Preez having grown as a direct flyhalf in his last year with the Stormers/WP, the Lions could have their work cut out keeping the big Sharks backs from crossing the gainline.

Of course, that will have benefits for the players both inside and outside that duo. The Sharks have plenty of driving presence among their loose-forwards and they also have both size and pace out wide.


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