Alberts in for ‘special attention’

2010-04-14 00:00

COACH John Plumtree accepts that Saturday’s Super 14 clash at Ellis Park will be a grudge affair with Sharks number eight Willem Alberts being targeted by the Lions.

Alberts, who will take over from the injured Ryan Kankowski at number eight, was the centre of a bitter pre-season contractual dispute between the Lions and the Sharks. The Sharks won the high court action, but Plumtree said yesterday that he expected Alberts “to come in for some special attention.

“We have to back him up. I’m sure they will target him and we need to make sure we help him out.”

There will also be rivalry, although far friendlier, between the two coaches, Plumtree and the Lions’ Dick Muir, both former Natal team-mates.

Plumtree served as head coach Muir’s assistant for two years at the Sharks and then took over in 2008 when Muir was appointed to the Springbok management team.

“I miss Dick,” said Plumtree. “He’s been a big part of this franchise and he’s had it a bit tough this year. But who hasn’t?” he added with a smile.

Plumtree admitted there would be a grudge element to Saturday’s game, “but mostly in the media and it will be forgotten once the game starts.

“The Sharks will be an exciting challenge for the Lions at home and in front of a good Ellis Park crowd.”

The Sharks had a bye last weekend after their three successive wins and Plumtree said he would only know on Saturday night whether the break was of benefit.

“It does break momentum, but we needed it to rest some players with injuries.”

The Sharks coach said that flank Keegan Daniel (shoulder) was unlikely to play, but lock Johann Muller was ready after breaking his finger.

“The guys are starting to play with a bit more confidence, but every game is knock-out now.”

He said he was unhappy with the Sharks defence.

“We’ve leaked far too many line-breaks. The change of laws at the breakdowns have added to the stress on the defences, but we are still missing too many one-on-one tackles.

“This is something we’ve addressed. We have been a fairly proud defensive side over the last three years and when you aren’t scoring tries, and the defence is leaking, you are in serious trouble.”

He said the Lions had shown, even in losing all eight of their games, that they remain an attacking threat.

“We have to make sure that they also have to do a fair bit of tackling. They give the ball air and width and their players are instinctive attackers. It’s difficult to defend against, but it is also high risk and they’ve paid for that this season with turnovers.”

“That’s the make-up of the players they have and the way Dick [Muir] likes to play the game. Whether they play like that against us remains to be seen, but they certainly have the attack and we’ll have to be on the ball.”

Plumtree said that former All Black flyhalf Carlos Spencer had been “a mixed bag” for the Lions.

“He is capable though and he’ll be pretty excited about this challenge. The game will be pretty physical and it will be interesting to see how he enjoys that.”

The attacking ability of Ryan Kankowski, he said, would be missed.

“When we play well, and give the ball some width, Kankowski becomes a major threat. But, with Alberts, we get a different type of player and he had an outstanding game against the Reds, while Jean Deysel has also come into some form. If you look at the pack, Deysel, Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis and John Smit, there are certainly some big ball carriers and that’s a major plus in this team.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 5.05 pm.

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