Kanko with plenty to prove
With Pierre Spies out for the season, fit-again Ryan Kankowski has got everything to play for in the next few weeks.
With Pierre Spies out for the season, fit-again Ryan Kankowski has got everything to play for in the last three games of the Sharks' Super Rugby season.
The loss of Spies has left the Springbok No.8 berth wide open and Kankowski is no stranger to the jersey even though he seems to have fallen out of favour at the Sharks.
It is no secret that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer rates Kankowski very highly. He invited him to both Springbok training camps this year even though he was dropped by the Sharks for their overseas tour.
Kankowski was shocked at his omission from the Sharks overseas squad but did not say anything about there being an issue between him and outgoing coach John Plumtree. Kankowski has been playing on the flank for a lot of the season and captain, Keegan Daniel has been occupying the No.8 position.
The issue for Kankowski was that he felt that he was playing out of position but did not use this as an excuse for his axing from the squad, although it would have frustrated him.
There really are not many other experienced options to play at the back of the Springbok scrum for the Rugby Championship with Willem Alberts being the only other player in the greater Springbok squad that has played there in recent times.
Duane Vermeulen is expected back at the end of the Super Rugby season and the speculation will be whether Meyer would throw Vermeulen straight back into the Springbok mix for the Rugby Championship.
The availability of Kankowski for the Sharks and the Springboks could put him back in the pound seat as the cover for the Bok No.8 position in the absence of Vermeulen - if he is going to be held back.
The Sharks host the Blues in Durban on Saturday in their first Super Rugby fixture since they lost to the Bulls on May 25.
Commenting on the upcoming game, Sharks captain Keegan Daniel said: "The Blues have quite a bit of x-factor in their team, we know they are dangerous from anywhere on the field. We need to focus on ourselves, we want to go out there and express ourselves.
"The calibre of players we have returning from Springbok duty is a massive boost for us. We also had guys playing against the Lions who put their hands up and players returning from injury. We just want to play some great rugby," Daniel added.
The Sharks Team Doctor, Dr Alan Kourie, released the medical update which would encourage both the Sharks and Bok coach Meyer.
Players that are expected back for the Blues game are Cobus Reinach, Jacques Botes and Kankowski. Reinach returns after a fairly lengthy lay-off and will be it will be a welcome return for the exciting scrumhalf.
Andrew 'Butch' James and Heimar Williams will be subjected to fitness tests later in the week to judge whether they will be fit enough for selection.
Players on the mend and returning in the next few weeks are Craig Burden, JP Pietersen, Meyer Bosman and Tim Whitehead. Whitehead has not had a taste of any Super Rugby this year after he fractured his arm in a preseason game.
Tighthead prop Wiehahn Herbst, utility back Francois Steyn, flank Francois Kleinhans and lock Jandre Marais are players that are still in rehabilitation.