Fitness concerns for Sharks ahead of Dunedin clash

2010-03-16 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree said yesterday that there are a number of fitness concerns ahead of Saturday’s Super 14 match against the Highlanders in Dunedin, with prop Deon Carstens and centre Adi Jacobs nursing injured knees and Riaan Swanepoel a sore ankle.

“We are hoping our midfield [Jacobs and Swanepoel] will be ready by Thursday’s practice.”

Plumtree dismissed speculation that he was considering beefing up his loose trio, by fielding a combination of Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Ryan Kankowski and dropping his smaller, quicker open side flank (Keegan Daniel or Jacques Botes).

“Your loose forwards have to be fast. The game is about pace, the phase play is speeding up because the breakdown is with the new-look laws. The bigger, heavier players will battle because if you are not quick and mobile you struggle both on attack and defence.”

The Sharks’ record in Australia is poor — they have lost 17 of their last 19 games there — but they have curiously been far more effective in New Zealand and won two matches there last year.

But Plumtree is taking little notice of history.

“I’m just worried about one week at a time. History says we have gone five games without a win and we are low on the log, and that’s what I want to change.”

The Highlanders limped back to New Zealand yesterday after their South African tour which saw them beating the Cheetahs, but losing heavily to the Stormers and the Bulls.

“It’s always tough to come back from SA, but they are a courageous team. They also beat the Cheetahs, which is something we struggle to do, and they are much tougher at home,” said Plumtree.

“We know how difficult it’s going to be, but we also know that if we can hold on to that ball and build periods of attack and defend well, we can win. Our discipline has to be right and all the different factors that are letting us down need to be accurate on the day.”

The game kicks off at 8.35 am on Saturday.

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