Sharks boosted by Van der Walt’s leadership

rugby26 March 2019 13:44| © Cycle Lab
By:JJ Harmse
Philip van der Walt © Gallo Images

The Cell C Sharks’ chances of avenging their recent defeat to the Vodacom Bulls when the sides clash in their derby in Durban on Saturday have been boosted by the return to full fitness of experienced loose-forward Philip van der Walt.

The versatile Sharks player took a full part in training on a Jonnson King’s Park outer-field on a wet Durban Tuesday and is ready to play against the Bulls if selected. The chances are that he will play some role, possibly even as a member of the starting team, as the Sharks lack experience in their back-row resources because of the injuries to the likes of Jean-Luc du Preez and Tyler Paul.

Van der Walt sustained a thigh contusion after returning from his off-season sojourn in Japan and has yet to make an appearance for the Sharks this season. His presence will be welcomed because he can play in all three back-row positions, although he is most likely to wear the No 6 jersey if he starts against the Bulls.

It is not just what he offers as a player that will please the Sharks coaches about having him available again. Coach Robert du Preez has often spoken about Van der Walt’s leadership ability and he made a big difference to the Sharks’ fortunes in that regard when he returned from injury at a stage of last season.

He captained the Sharks for a while when Gary Gold was coaching the Sharks and will add to the leadership group that is supporting Louis Schreuder.

Talking of the Sharks captaincy, a significant continued absentee from the Sharks is last year’s captain Ruan Botha. The former Western Province and Lions player has been out with a foot injury since the loss to the Stormers and the word from the Sharks camp is that he won’t be ready to play on Saturday.

The Sharks have been struggling to fill the hole he has left at lock, something which has been exacerbated by the absence of Paul, who is as at home in the second row as he is on the blindside flank.

With Jean-Luc du Preez still a few weeks away from being ready to play as he continues his recovery from an injury sustained in the off-season the Sharks are understrength in the one area they need to be at their strongest against the likes of the Bulls, who are talking up the physical aspect of the game subsequent to their big defeat to the Chiefs.

However, having Van der Walt’s experience and leadership ability, plus his high work-rate, available again should make a positive difference.

The Sharks team for the Bulls match will be announced on Thursday.