Lewies gets to make the 'big calls'
Stephan Lewies may be a three-match rookie, but he will have some big calls to make when the Sharks play the Reds on Saturday.
Stephan Lewies may be a three-match rookie, but he will have some big calls to make when the Sharks play the Reds in Durban on Saturday.
The 22-year Lewies, who made all three his Super Rugby appearances off the bench for the Sharks this year, was promoted to the starting XV on Thursday - after Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit took a blow to the knee in a training ground mishap earlier in the day.
Now Lewies, who is actually seven months older than the two-times capped Bok Du Toit, will square up to Wallaby veteran James Horwill.
Horwill, 28, is regarded as one of the world's foremost line-out exponents and will bring with him the experience of 90-odd Reds caps and 35 Tests for Australia.
And it is in the line-outs where Lewies will have some big calls to make.
Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White, addressing a media briefing after confirming Du Toit's withdrawal, revealed that Lewies is being groomed as a No.5 lock that can take control of the line-outs.
He spoke of the "pace and power" of the young Lewies, who has impressed in his second-half cameos so far.
However, it is in the line-outs where they are working on bringing the talented second row forward up to par.
"We're in the process now - not only here [at the Sharks], but throughout South Africa - of trying to groom callers in line-outs," White told the media scrum.
"After Victor Matfield retired [at the end of 2011 and before his return this year], there was a shortage of guys who could call and jump in the line-out.
"Now, to have two players like that in Stephan and Pieter-Steph in that role is a real bonus for us.
"So the loss of Pieter-Steph with a bang on the knee opens the door for another opportunity to someone else, but we're replacing like for like."
White has yet to make a call on who will replace Lewies on the bench, saying that they must make sure they "get the balance right".
White also spoke of the decision to bring Springbok utility back JP Pietersen straight into the starting XV, after he only arrived back from Japan on Tuesday this week.
"It wasn't ideal that we lost Paul [Jordaan, knee injury] and Odwa [Ndungane, his father passed away] in same week," White said.
"We would have liked to have blooded him [Pietersen] off the bench and get a feel for it, but it's his 99th Super Rugby game. He has been around, he's scored 33 Super Rugby tries - so to get his experience and that sort of value into a game against a team like the Reds is obviously massive for us."
White added that while Pietersen can play at outside centre, they opted to play him in his most favoured position at wing.
"I'm really looking forward to watching S'bura [Sibusiso Sithole] at No.13.
"I think there is a position in South Africa at No.13 that's available. I have full faith in him as a Sevens player and a guy with the ability to play at outside centre.
"Often you try hide guys on the wing. I think he has a lot of attributes at 13 that are good for us.
"He's very strong on his feet, has an unbelievable hand-off, he likes to run with the ball and he likes to finish. Some people think finishers have to be on the wing.
Defensively, he might not be used to the position, but he can tackle.
"The reality is that the more opportunities he gets in that position the better he will become.
"[World Cup-winning Bok] Jaque Fourie played fullback at school, but ended up playing 69 Tests at outside centre and a few at wing.
"There is nothing wrong with starting him at No.13 at a provincial level, bringing those attributes to our game.
"JP, Lwazi [Mvovo] and S'bura bring a lot of pace. S'bura is the quickest player in the squad.
"If you're S'bura you understand that at No.10 you have a Springbok, No.12 is [a Bok], and both wings are [internationals]. You're fitting in between guys with Test experience and they will assist him to understand what he needs to do.
"And he's playing [against] a guy who was at school two years ago, he's marking a player who has just turned 20. I'm sure he will handle himself adequately."