Fri, 22 Jan 2021

Versatility will be a distinct theme when the Sharks take on the Pumas in Friday night's Currie Cup opener at King's Park.

The selection of hulking second rower JJ van der Mescht on the blindside has understandably hogged most of the attention in this regard, but it's also notable that Dylan Richardson is continuing his relatively regular tap dance between hooker and openside flanker.

Despite South African rugby still being a tad wary of proverbial all-rounders - one still struggles to stomach the unfulfilled talents of men like Pat Lambie and Francois Hougaard - the 21-year-old former Junior Springbok has been extremely productive.

In fact, Richardson reminds one pertinently of former Stormers hooker cum flanker Deon Fourie.

Fourie, who would later forge a successful stint in France, initially made his name as a livewire if mercurial No 2 at Newlands before then coach Allister Coetzee sought to channel his enthusiasm and breakdown skills more efficiently at flank.

One of his career highlights, captaining Western Province to 2012's Currie Cup title, came from being almost strictly employed as an opensider.

History, even if its unwittingly so, seems to be repeating itself.

Teams: Sharks

15 Manie Libbok, 14 Yaw Penxe, 13 Jeremy Ward (captain), 12 Marius Louw, 11 Madosh Tambwe, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Sanele Nohamba, 8 Thembelani Bholi, 7 JJ van der Mescht, 6 Dylan Richardson, 5 Hyron Andrews, 4 Ruben van Heerden, 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Kerron van Vuuren, 1 Ox Nche

Substitutes: 16 Dan Jooste, 17 Khwezi Mona, 18 Hanro Jacobs, 19 Zain Davids, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Werner Kok, 23 S'bu Nkosi


15 Devon Williams, 14 Morne Joubert, 13 Erich Cronje, 12 Ali Mgijima, 11 Etienne Taljaard, 10 Theo Boshoff, 9 Ginter Smuts, 8 Francois Kleinhans, 7 Phumzile Maqondwana, 6 Daniel Maartens, 5 Pieter Janse van Vuren (captain), 4 Darrien Landsberg, 3 Ruan Kramer, 2 HP van Schoor, 1 Liam Hendriks

Substitutes: 16 Marko Janse van Rensburg, 17 Wikus Groenewald, 18 Brandon Valentyn, 19 Heath Backhouse, 20 Chriswill September, 21 Wayne van der Bank, 22 Tapiwa Mafura, 23 Dewald Maritz

Richardson, similarly compact but significantly taller than Fourie, has arguably been the Sharks' most valuable player since the local game's resumption.

As hooker, he delivered an outstanding performance in a gloomy 14-41 defeat to the Bulls at Loftus, scoring a try and making two turnovers.

When Kerron van Vuuren returned, Richardson moved to No 6 with a minimum of fuss and continued to be a pesky presence at the breakdown.

It was his dot-down behind the whitewash and one vital turnover as replacement that helped turned the tide two weeks ago in a narrow 34-33 comeback victory over Griquas in Kimberley.

"Dylan really has done well for us," said Sean Everitt, the Sharks' head coach.

"I think we can all agree that his general all-round play has been outstanding, whether at hooker or flank."

Given how pronounced Covid-19 infections have scrambled the Sharks' cards over the past two weeks, especially among their loose forwards, Richardson's value merely skyrockets.

In other words, he's the ideal player for a pandemic.

"I still see him as a hooker in the long term. We've got three very good No 2s at the Sharks, so it's about managing resources," said Everitt.

"He has a nice opportunity against the Pumas at the side of the scrum, where he's very comfortable. It's a position where he can get game-time and gain experience at senior level.

"At the moment, he's really playing well there."

Kick-off at King's Park is at 19:00.

Source: News24

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