Boks will give Sharks a boost in big clash

2010-07-28 00:00

TEST tighthead Jannie du Plessis could join the three returning Springboks in the Sharks Currie Cup squad to face the buoyant Free Staters in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Du Plessis, who returned home early from the Boks’ Tri-Nations tour of New Zealand after suffering a calf strain, faces a fitness test later in the week.

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford, who took the place of the indisposed John Plumtree at the weekly media conference at King’s Park yesterday, said that the Bok tighthead could be included in the match 22 along with Test players Ryan Kankowski, Beast Mtawarira and Ruan Pienaar, who have been released from the national squad. “We still have to decide how best to integrate the returning Boks. But whether the Boks play off the bench or start, they will strengthen us.

“The Beast hasn’t had much match practice since the Super 14 and he needs game time.”

Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who underwent a serious neck operation during the Super 14, is also close to making a return, Bashford said.

“Bismarck has been in rehab and he should be back either this week or next, and he’s already in contact at training.”

Adi Jacobs, André Pretorius, Lionel Mapoe and Gerhard Mostert are still undergoing treatment, he added. “We always knew that we would be a bit light for the first three or four rounds.”

Bashford said the availability of their two bruising backrow forwards, Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel, after injury is critical to the Sharks’ Currie Cup campaign.

“If you take Alberts and Deysel out of any team, you lose a huge attacking weapon. This is no disrespect to the others who have played really well, but you could see the impact Willem made when he came on against the Pumas (last Friday night), how he broke tackles and gave us go-forward ball.

“There aren’t too many teams in the world who can boast the physicality these two bring and they’ll be huge for us in the campaign.”

Reflecting on the Sharks’ tough night against the Pumas, Bashford said the players had possibly underrated their opponents. “We have a knack of getting into a good mental state to play the Bulls, but we did not show the Pumas the same respect. We have to get the attitude right against the Cheetahs this weekend if we are to win.”

The Free Staters beat the champion Blue Bulls after the final hooter at Loftus on Saturday and Bashford said the victory will provide the Cheetahs with a massive boost.

“They’ll be confident and very difficult to beat at home. They’ve been consistent in selection and (Springbok flank) Juan Smith makes a huge difference. They have threats across the field and they’ve played together through the Super 14.”

But Bashford said the mood in the Sharks camp is positive.

“There is a real belief in this team that we can get a result there, provided we play the way we know we can and prevent them from gaining momentum.”

Saturday’s game in Bloemfontein kicks off at 3 pm.

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