JP back for Sharks as they try to avoid being first Highlanders scalp in 2013 (teamsheet)

John Plumtree has opted for a youthful pack to take on the bottom-of-the-log Highlanders, who have lost all 8 games so far this season. He contrasts this with a potent backline boasting Springboks from 9 to 15 (Riaan Viljoen has played midweek for the Boks). Having dropped to 3rd in the South African conference, the Sharks will be hungry to get their push for a playoff spot back on track, but will they be as hungry as the desperate men from Dunedin?

Changes/Milestones:

  • JP Pieterson returns on the right wing
  • Springbok wing Lwazi Mvovo returns from a hand injury in the number 11 jersey
  •  Lubabalo Mtembu retains his place at no.8 after an impressive run-on debut last weekend
  • Keagan Daniel returns at open side flank and will captain the team
  • Last week’s captain Jean Deysel drops down to the bench

The Sharks:15. Riaan Viljoen, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Francois Steyn, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Lubabalo Mtembu, 7. Marcell Coetzee, 6. Keegan Daniel (C), 5. Franco van der Merwe, 4. Pieter-Steph du Toit, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Wiehahn Herbst

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. JC Janse van Rensburg, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Jean Deysel, 20. Tian Meyer, 21. Piet Lindeque
22. Odwa Ndungane/Derick Minnie

SGR

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According to Aussie papers Deans is nearly done

When Rugby Window previewed the Bok v Wallaby game last Saturday, we described it as being a watershed (or even Waterloo) for both coaches. The one who lost would be packing his bags very shortly…and it was Deans and his walking wounded who limped off the Loftus Versfeld after receiving a 5 try to 1 hiding.

The Australian media are now calling for his head:

“The coaching future of Robbie Deans will go on the line in Argentina when a second-string Wallabies side takes on the Pumas,” The Daily Telegraph’s Jim Tucker said.

“The unnerving knowledge that the Broken XV in the casualty ward is a far superior line-up to the Wallabies flying into a wild Argentinian ambush is not how Robbie Deans planned to fight for his coaching future.”

“Not after five seasons of triumphs and crashlandings in the big-ticket arenas of Sydney, Brisbane, Durban, Bloemfontein, Twickenham, Murrayfield and, of course, Auckland with that cursed Eden Park patch.”

Former Wallaby captain Andrew Slack said the “messiest” fortnight in Australian rugby’s professional history had pushed Deans’s tenure as national coach close to breaking point.

“Nowadays is it perform or perish,” Slack told the Australian Associated Press.

“People will be looking for a scapegoat and rightly or wrongly the responsibility for the performances rests with the coach.

“There will be a lot of pressure on Robbie heading into the (Argentina) game.

“And if it is a game they lose, that pressure will only intensify but I think even if they win that pressure will still be there.”

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Greg Growden said “disruption and decay” were everywhere.

“Australian Rugby has endured the most dreadful of weeks. And next week could be even worse, with the Wallabies heading deeper into the horror tour from hell,” Growden wrote.

“Disruption and decay are everywhere. (Flyhalf) Quade Cooper dumps on them, the Springboks smash them and now they head to Argentina with the fear that without enough fit bodies they could be decimated by the Pumas.”

The Australian newspaper said Australian rugby was deteriorating fast and called on new ARU chairman Michael Hawker to act.

“If he doesn’t hit the button for the crash cart now, the game will soon slip beyond the point of saving,” the paper’s Wayne Smith said.

“The defibrillator paddles have to be applied and the first jolt needs to shake loose Robbie Deans from the coaching position.

“There is not the slightest doubt that Deans has given his all over the past five years and tried to make the Wallabies work.”

“But clearly they’re not working and that was obvious at Pretoria long before injuries reduced the team to a shambles midway through the second half.”

SGR

Aussies likely to lose Higgenbotham for Pretoria Test (latest teams)

The Aussies were struck a blow with the news that skillful and hard-running loose-forward Scott Higgenbotham would probably be ruled out of the Saturday’s test due to injury.

This will be very disappointing for the player, who had to pull out of another test in Pretoria in 2010 just before the match.

Wallaby Team

15 Berrick Barnes, 14 Dominic Shipperley, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Digby Ioane, 10 Kurtley Beale, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Radike Samo, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Dave Dennis, 5 Nathan Sharpe (c), 4 Kane Douglas, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Tatafu Polota Nau, 1 Benn Robinson
Subs: 16 Saia Fainga’a, 17 James Slipper, 18 Rob Simmons, 19 Scott Higginbotham/Mike Harris, 20 Liam Gill, 21 Brett Sheehan, 22 Anthony Fainga’a

Springbok Team

15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Bryan Habana, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Francois Hougaard, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Duane Vermuelen, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Andries Bekker, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Beast Mtawarira.
Subs: 16 Tiaan Liebenberg, 17 Pat Cilliers, 18 Flip van der Merwe, 19 Marcel Coetzee, 20 Elton Jantjies, 21 Juan de Jongh, 22 Pat Lambie.

SGR

Meyer and Deans Under Pressure

Loftus Versfeld could be a watershed moment for both coaches; the winner could go on to take their team to the 2015 World Cup in England and the loser could start packing his bags and dusting off the old CV. Both coaches have been heavily maligned by their local media, for poor player management, picking the wrong players and for sticking to a game plan that quite clearly is not working.

There is a contrast, almost an opposite scenario that has developed in each camp. Where one coach (Deans) is not getting along with his fly-half Quade Cooper and the other (Meyer) is continuing to include his totally out-of-form fly-half, Morne Steyn, in the starting 15. Number 10 is the most important decision maker on the field and without the coaches backing or a game plan that suits their style, the both attack and defence tend go be a bit all over the place. And this is exactly what we have seen from the Wallabies and Springboks, who have produced very little decent rugby this winter.

The winner of Saturday’s match in the South African capital could save his job, whilst the lost match for the loser might just be the last straw. Deans has coached the Wallabies more than any other coach in their history, recently breaking Bob Dwyer’s record, whilst Meyer has been in charge for just 7 weeks, which could count in his favour if the Boks decide to throw another game away.

Growing resentment and poor play relations could see Deans get the boot after the Rugby Championship even if they beat the Springboks on Saturday, as he has failed to turn the Australians into the world-beaters, as he had promised at the beginning of his tenure.

Whatever the result and whoever gets the chop, this writer will be hoping that the rugby on display resembles that of two of the top 3 sides in world, not the half-heart and misdirected 80 minute dog-shows that have happened so far.

SGR

All Black Squad to Tour Argentina and South Africa

NEW ZEALAND SQUAD

Backs: Aaron Smith, Piri Weepu, Beauden Barrett, Daniel Carter, Aaron Cruden, Tamati Ellison, Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith, Israel Dagg, Hosea Gear, Cory Jane, Ben Smith, Julian Savea.

Forwards: Andrew Hore, Keven Mealamu, Charlie Faumuina, Ben Franks, Owen Franks, Tony Woodcock, Brodie Retallick, Luke Romano, Sam Whitelock, Sam Cane, Richie McCaw (c), Liam Messam, Kieran Read, Adam Thomson, Victor Vito.