Beast back and under pressure to perform

2013-01-24 00:00

TENDAI Mtawarira, the Beast, will be under pressure to perform for the Sharks in the opening weeks of the Super Rugby campaign with fellow loosehead prop Dale Chadwick sidelined by injury.

Mtawarira, who battled injury last year and had his Springbok tour of the UK cut short by a heart condition, has been cleared to play in the Super Rugby competition.

Which is just as well for the Sharks with Chadwick, a regular at loosehead last year, now injured. Coach John Plumtree admitted yesterday that he faced a potential problem in the front row.

“We’ve lost Dale for four to six weeks with a stress fracture,” Plumtree said yesterday.

“We can’t now afford to have any upsets with Beast. We lost him for a long period last year so there is a little bit of pressure there.”

Plumtree said that he had another talented young prop in Allan Dell who made his Currie Cup debut for the Sharks last year.

He highlighted the lineout as a major area of concern, with good reason. The Sharks’ lineout failed dismally against Western Province in the Currie Cup final.

“We have to concentrate hard in that area, particularly with [Springbok lock] Franco van der Merwe coming in to the squad and [injured hooker] Bismarck du Plessis unavailable for the opening months.”

The Sharks coach said that there was competition between three players — Craig Burden, Kyle Cooper and Monde Hadebe — for the hooking berth.

Burden is the obvious favourite after a frustrating 2012. After showing excellent form for the Sharks, he was called up by Heyneke Meyer and travelled the world with the Springbok squad without seeing any action.

He did return to the Sharks for the fag-end of the Currie Cup season, but battled to regain his earlier form and his jumpers, under pressure, proved elusive in the final.

“Craig [Burden] has a real opportunity now,” said Plumtree. “He didn’t get a lot of time last year in the Currie Cup because of the way the Springboks used him which was disappointing for him, but there is an opportunity now for him to get a run of games.

“Kyle [Cooper] showed me he is capable and played well at Currie Cup level and Monde [Hadebe] also had some good Currie Cup game time.

“Between the three of them there is some competition. Core skills are really important, throwing in obviously, and we’ll be looking for the player that executes the basics the best …”

Plumtree admitted the loss of influential Bismarck du Plessis was a blow for the squad on and off the field. Du Plessis is recovering from major knee surgery and may only make his return in April.

The Sharks’ season starts with the warm-up match against the Leopards at Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on February 8. They play a second friendly against the Pumas in Nelspruit on February 15, before opening their Super Rugby season against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, on February 23.

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