Fitness concerns over ref … and Boks

2011-08-11 00:00

SPRINGBOK captain John Smit and loosehead prop Beast Mtawarira will not be the only ones concerned that New Zealand referee Bryce Lawrence is in charge of Saturday’s Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies at King’s Park.

Smit played in the Sharks’ squad badly thumped by the Crusaders in Nelson in the quarter-finals of the Super Rugby competition.

It was on that day that the New Zealand commentators and even the players were laughing at Lawrence’s calls.

On one occasion Lawrence famously penalised the Beast for “dangerous scrummaging” before the scrum had even engaged, while Crusaders centre Sonny Bill Williams was grinning broadly after winning a penalty, and three points, with a Hollywood dive.

Earlier in the competition there had been concern that Lawrence, huffing and puffing, was not fit enough to officiate at the highest level, yet Sanzar refereeing boss Lyndon Bray, another New Zealander, and his assessors rate him one of the best in the world.

And, on this tack, concern has been expressed among the Sharks at the lack of condition of a number of Springboks who were at the Rustenburg camp while the away leg of the Tri-Nations was taking place.

A number of officials have told The Witness that some of the Sharks’ players have gained a significant amount of weight while in Rustenburg. “Not one has returned in better condition than when he left,” one official muttered, adding that one Springbok forward had gained close to eight kilograms since the end of the Super Rugby competition.

Coach John Plumtree said he is unaware of any loss of condition among the Sharks’ Springboks, but he was critical of the decision to take players like Mtawarira and the Du Plessis brothers out of the game for seven weeks. “These big guys need game time. The more they play, the better they play,” he said.

Loose forwards Ryan Kankowski (Sharks) and Ashley Johnson (Cheetahs) were yesterday released to play Currie Cup rugby this weekend, having been called up as cover to the Springbok camp in Durban.

The pair were drafted in as a precaution after Pierre Spies (groin) and Danie Rossouw (gastroenteritis) were unable to train on Monday.

Both players, who had recovered sufficiently to take part in practice on Tuesday and reported no adverse effects yesterday, will be available for selection.

Meanwhile, Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl said a crowd of about 46 000 is expected to watch Saturday’s Test. This will be about 6 000 under capacity.

“I believe the ticket office has been really busy today, so we might get more.”

Tickets for adults are selling at R450.

“We have to charge that amount to meet our guarantee of R10 million to the SA Rugby Union,” he said.

The Test on Saturday kicks off at 5 pm.

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