Bismarck’s rib injury to be assessed ahead of semi-finals

2009-10-12 00:00

IF you can ignore, just for a moment, the injuries to Springbok front-rowers Bismarck du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira, it was just about a perfect weekend for coach John Plumtree and his Sharks.

The Sharks ran in seven tries to beat Griquas 45-30 in the final round in Kimberley and two hours later their top spot on the final Currie Cup log was confirmed when the improving Lions upset previous leaders Western Province 27-25.

The Sharks now take on fourth-placed Free State in the early semi-final at King’s Park on Saturday (2.30 pm) while Western Province, dropping down to second place, host the Blue Bulls at Newlands in the 5 pm play-off.

The Sharks’ top place will also provide the champions with a second successive home final (on October 31) if they manage to beat the willing and lively Free Staters.

The only pieces of sobering news on a day of Sharks’ celebration were the injuries which forced Bok hooker Du Plessis and Mtawarira to leave the field.

“It looks like Bismarck has damaged a rib cartilage but he is a tough guy,” Plumtree said yesterday.

“He is still sore today [Sunday] but we’ll see how he goes this week,” said Plumtree.

“We won’t risk him. We have options at hooker with Craig Burden playing well or we could even move [tighthead] John Smit back to his old position.”

Plumtree said he was less concerned about Mtawarira.

“Beast came back from the Springboks with a bit of a shoulder problem but I’m sure he’ll be fine after treatment through the week. And we’ll also have Deon Carstens back.”

Plumtree said that the outcome of Saturday’s matches, allowing the Sharks to overtake Province at the top, had always been the likely scenario.

“I always felt we had a better chance of scoring a bonus point win in Kimberley than Province did against the Lions who are playing exceptionally well at the moment.”

But the Sharks coach is now looking no further than the Free Staters this Saturday.

“It honestly did not bother me whether we played the Bulls or the Cheetahs in the semis. They both have different strengths and are both very tough. “Any one of the four semi-final teams can beat the others on their day and we would be crazy to think that because we are up against the Cheetahs rather than the Bulls we can start talking about a home final.”

Plumtree said the loose Sharks defence — they leaked four tries and missed some 25 tackles against Griquas on Saturday — was a concern, but it had not been unexpected.

“Griquas have attacked well all season and I was concerned that our energy levels would drop in the heat up there. A couple of our guys have also been out of rugby for some time and it showed. A chap like Adi Jacobs has not started a game since the British Lions tour back in June.

“There was also a problem with communication on defence at times. But there is nothing there we cannot put right and we’ll be much better in the semi-final.”

What pleased Plumtree was the form of several individual players.

“I was keen to see how Alistair Hargreaves [the Sharks lock] would go under pressure and he responded well and played good rugby.

“We also gave Jean Deysel [back from injury] a good run and he came through strongly. I also thought Ruan Pienaar had his best game in some time.”

Replacement Craig Burden underlined his value with two excellent tries and Plumtree said the problem the hooker had in finding his jumpers in the second half was because of a lack of match practice following his shoulder injury.

What was also encouraging was the more direct style of rugby played by the Sharks.

The contest was basically settled in the opening quarter when the Sharks pack dominated the set pieces and the four tries for a bonus point were scored inside 24 minutes for a 28-11 lead.

Juan Hernandez and Pienaar made astute use of the boot in looking for territory but the Sharks were still quick to counter-attack when they won turnover ball and were faced by a disrupted defence.

While Plumtree refuses to accept that his team have the easier semi-final, most Sharks supporters will be delighted that it is Western Province who will have to contend with the Super 14 champion Bulls, crowded with senior Springboks, in their play-off.

Free State will be tough but the events of the weekend have worked in the Sharks’ favour and on Saturday they will have the additional incentive of playing for a lucrative home Currie Cup final.

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