Final friendly: Sharks to draft several Springboks into line-up against Pumas on Friday

2013-02-13 00:00

THE Sharks will field close to their strongest available line-up in Friday’s final pre-season friendly against the Pumas in Nelspruit.

Coach John Plumtree said he would be fielding a number of Springboks who missed last Friday’s friendly against the Leopards, but No. 8 Ryan Kankowski would not be among them.

Kankowski, who has spent the last six months playing club rugby in Japan, only returned to Durban at the weekend.

“We won’t play Ryan this Friday. We want him to have a week of weight training to get his strength up 10-15% for next week [the Super Rugby opener against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein].

“He’s obviously a very important player with Keegan [Daniel] out and we want to get him back to top shape.”

Captain and number eight Daniel, injured against the Leopards, will be sidelined for some six weeks.

Plumtree confirmed that Bok centre Frans Steyn would take over as captain in the absence of Daniel.

“Frans is the ideal candidate for the captaincy in terms of experience. He has the respect of the players, leads by example and he’s a winner …

“There are enough experienced campaigners in the squad who can assist in terms of strategy. They will help him out with advice which is important.”

The Sharks coach said he would field close to his starting line-up against the Cheetahs in Nelspruit.

“But obviously that depends on how the players perform. Everyone played really well at Woodburn Stadium, but the opposition was pretty average.

“That, and the injuries we picked up, was the disappointing side of Friday night.”

He said the Sharks would face a far tougher challenge in Nelspruit.

“The Pumas have an experienced coach in Jimmy Stonehouse and they’ll come out firing. We should get a physical, competitive hit-out, which is what we want.”

Plumtree said that he had been impressed with the attitude of the players against the Leopards and the size of the Woodburn Stadium crowd.

The Sharks coach believes the players are better prepared than they have been in previous years, both physically and from an organisational point of view.

“That’s a result of having a settled team for a little while now, we’ve got some nice continuity in what we do.

The injuries are a big blow, not just in terms of the number of players, but the calibre of the players who are injured [Bismarck du Plessis, Daniel and Tim Whitehead].”

Plumtree said that Paul Jordaan and Whitehead would have contested the outside centre position — “and keeping each other honest”.

“So the loss of Tim is a blow but we know JP [Pietersen] can attack really effectively from 13 [outside centre], although defensively it is a little bit harder for him. But we do have a plan for that if he had to go into the midfield, it’s nothing we haven’t experience before. Ideally we want to keep JP on the wing but, if we had to move him to centre, we could.

“But at the end of the day we are still going to be able to name a strong Sharks side and that’s important.”

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