Sharks v Glasgow: visa issues strand Franco Smith in Scotland

Attack coach Nigel Carolan will take charge of the side for Durban clash

Franco Smith has had to entrust right hand man Nigel Carolan with running the team against the Sharks this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk
Franco Smith has had to entrust right hand man Nigel Carolan with running the team against the Sharks this weekend. Image: © Craig Watson - www.craigwatson.co.uk

FRANCO SMITH will be stuck as a helpless onlooker watching the game on the box in his Glasgow flat when his Warriors side take on a star-studded Sharks line-up in Durban this afternoon, due to his UK work visa not yet being approved.

The South African wasn’t able to fly out to his homeland with the rest of the squad on Monday because if he leaves the UK now then he will have to restart the visa application process, so attack coach Nigel Carolan is leading operations on the ground until the situation is resolved.

“We are monitoring it very closely, hoping he is here as soon as possible,” said Glasgow managing director Al Kellock. “It generally takes about three weeks [for the visa application to be completed], and we are past that point now, so we were hopeful it would have been done by now, but it hasn’t come through in time.


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“It could come through at any moment and he could be on a plane straightaway. But we have run out of time and flights to get him over for this game, so Nigel and the rest of the coaching team will take care of the decision-making during the game.”

Smith’s is an extra complication which Glasgow could really do without as they prepare to face a Sharks team featuring six Springbok stars returning to the fray after being given the first four rounds of this URC campaign off to recover from their Rugby Championship exploits.

The mountainous Eben Etzebeth will make his debut for the franchise in the second-row following his move home from Toulon during the summer, while captain Siya Kolisi alongside fellow 2019 World Cup winners Bongi Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi are set to make big impacts off the bench. The other Springboks in the Sharks squad are Jaden Hendrikse (starting at scrum-half) and Ox Nche (on the bench)

“I’ve been in contact with Franco and he had input earlier in the week, so his stamp is firmly on the game-plan and the mind-set for this game,” said Carolan. “It is extremely challenging and frustrating for him not to be here, but we know what we are about, and we are well focussed on what needs to be done to win.

“More of their international players are on the bench rather than the starting side so I guess they are looking to finish the game strongly and are looking at how we performed at home last week when we disposed of the Bulls very much the Glasgow way,” he continued.

“The challenge now is to bring our game on the road and there is no better place to do that than in Durban against a Sharks side packed with Springboks.”

Rain has been forecast for Durban this weekend but Carolan said he and the rest of the squad aren’t paying much attention to that.

“The forecast here seems to change by the hours. The sun is out, then its cloudy, then a bit of rain. All we can really do is focus on the team we have picked and the type of game we are trying to play,” he reasoned.

“We certainly don’t want to go hand to hand combat. We feel our advantage is moving the ball around and finding space.

“That’s not going to change, and if the weather turns, we have plans to adapt, as we will have go if plan A isn’t working – but we’re going out there to play our style of rugby.”

 

Carolan also backed fit again Ollie Smith to make a big impact, with his selection at full-back meaning that Josh McKay moves to the wing.

“They are two players who can really turn a game on its head, so hopefully Ollie will relish the occasion,” he said.

In the pack, South African summer recruit Sintu Manjezi makes his first start in the second-row, with Scott Cummings shifting to blindside flanker and Gregor Brown dropping to the bench.

“That’s a horses for courses selection,” explained Carolan. “We know that they are going to have a big pack, and they’ve got a scrum and line-out threat. Scott is a very experienced player and he’s played a bit at six in the past, he’s another confident ball-carrier, and it gives us another option in our line-out as well.

“We think Gregor is making huge strides, but he is still a young man in the very early stages of the bright career he’s got ahead of him, so it is about managing him as well. And it also gives Sintu – who is well used to this climate and this opposition – his first start.

“The Sharks supporters are really excited about this team selection,” Carolan added. “They are expecting 25-30,000, so it is going to be a real occasion, and an occasion we are going to relish.

“There is no better challenge for us to try and silence that crowd by playing the Glasgow way, which we know we can.”


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About David Barnes 4012 Articles
David has worked as a freelance rugby journalist since 2004 covering every level of the game in Scotland for publications including The Herald/Sunday Herald, The Sunday Times, The Telegraph, The Scotsman/Scotland on Sunday/Evening News, The Daily Record, The Daily Mail/Mail on Sunday and The Sun.