Jake White hasn’t made up his mind who will wear the No 10 against the Toyota Cheetahs, but Tim Swiel can expect game time at some stage of the Cell C Sharks’ Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Toyota Cheetahs at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday.
Fred Zeilinga, who had taken over the role of first choice flyhalf following the injury to Patrick Lambie that has ruled the Springbok out of the rest of the season, suffered a hamstring tweak that has ruled him out for a couple of weeks. As White, the director of rugby at the Sharks, put it on Monday, that effectively means the Sharks are down to their fourth flyhalf, although there is a strong possibility that Frans Steyn will assume the role.
Steyn played well as a replacement in the two games that he has taken up the pivot role when injuries have happened during play. A couple of weeks ago, when Lambie was ruled out, White hinted quite strongly at a press conference in Durban that Steyn may move to No 10. However, Zeilinga was good in his first Super Rugby start against the Waratahs, and Steyn is a strong presence when he plays inside centre.
So it makes sense that White says he is undecided. Swiel, last year’s Western Province under-21 flyhalf, hasn’t really come through yet since moving to Durban, but has had limited opportunities. Highly regarded in the Cape, it was probably understandable that Swiel looked nervous when he ended up playing almost the entire game at flyhalf in the Loftus derby against the Vodacom Bulls following Lambie’s early departure from the playing field.
There is no tougher baptism for a young flyhalf than playing at Loftus against the Bulls, and it should not be forgotten that the match was the one occasion this season where the Sharks pack came off second best in the physical battle. White would never say it publicly, but a home game against the struggling Cheetahs might present a better chance for the former Bishops pupil to settle, and that may be featuring in White’s thought processes as he considers his options.
“I haven’t decided yet and it this stage there are a couple of options,” said White when asked if Steyn would just shift from inside centre to flyhalf, with Paul Jordaan now fit again and ready to be included in the midfield alongside the rapidly improving S’bura Sithole.
“Tim Swiel could slot straight back in at 10 as he has been doing well in the Vodacom Cup with the Sharks XV, who are unbeaten. Obviously Frans could also play at 10. He did that for us on Saturday against the Lions. It’s a choice we have to make, but inevitably Tim will get game time against the Cheetahs. It just depends whether it is off the bench or as a member of the starting team.”
White said that the injury situation at flyhalf was something that was part of the tough Super Rugby competition.
“We are now into our fourth flyhalf, but we’re not making an issue of it as that is the nature of the competition. It’s a good omen though as the All Blacks won the 2011 World Cup with their fourth flyhalf.”
White said he was happy with the win over the Lions, his team’s first away victory of the season, and wasn’t concerned about the critics who lamented his side’s failure to grab a four try bonus point.
“The lose ratio away from home in Super Rugby this year is phenomenal. Of the 55 games played, 14 have been won by the away team. The winning percentages are low, so any win at Ellis Park is good. We also don’t have a good record in Joburg. The last time we won there before Saturday was 2010. So that is a massive tick for us as a group.
“It was never going to be a bonus point game. A bonus point is called a bonus because that is what it is. The competitiveness of this competition is now well proven. Sides like the Force can beat the Waratahs, the Rebels, another new side in Super Rugby, came close to beating the Chiefs in Hamilton at the weekend. There are no easy games. And the bonus point doesn’t come that often.”