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Saturday, January 07, 2006


SA Unions / Teams: Jake White happy; James back for Sharks

Springbok coach Jake White was satisfied with the early conditioning tests when a group of 24 contracted players were put through their steps in Bloemfontein, although quite a few of his key players could not attend due to injury. Meanwhile there is some good news for the Sharks with the imminent return of a few of their stalwarts.

The forthcoming season will probably be the most demanding ever, with an extended Super 14 competition and two extra test matches added on to the Tri-Nations. White said it was therefore vital to start preparations real early.

Altogether eight players did not attend due do injury. They were Springbok captain John Smit, props CJ van der Linde and G├╝rhtro Steenkamp, backline players Ricky Januarie, Ashwin Willemse, Jaque Fourie and loose-forward Joe van Niekerk. Centre Marius Joubert was also absent, although Stormer's coach Kobus van der Merwe is on record that he is "back to full fitness" and will be ready to play in the first match (a pre-season friendly against the Bulls on Newlands on January 21) "if selected".

Two more assessments are scheduled for May (after completion of the Super 14) and again in July (before the start of the Tri-Nations).

James, Venter back for Sharks

Good news for Sharks fans is that Butch James, a key member of the side that made the Super 12 final five years ago, was there when his team mates got together for the first time this year. James did not take full part in the session, but the management is expecting him to be back in the fray come the end of January. James is quickly regaining full fitness after a long stint with troublesome knees.

Other significant returns from injury is former Springbok wing Dean Hall and scrumhalf Craig Davidson. Even more important is the condition of AJ Venter, who showed no ill-effects of the injury problems that kept him sidelined last year.

The Sharks' action starts on January 28 when they play the Bulls at Sun City.

Sources: Sapa and Gavin Rich in Weekend Argus.

Great to see AJ back again. I do wonder how long Butch will last though?  
I hope that Butch does last this time. He may very well be exactly what JW is looking for in the 10 spot. He has size, great defense, can distribute well, run well and has become a very good kicker.  
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