Fourteen top players left out of Sharks’ mix

2012-08-07 00:00

THE Sharks will field a second-string side against Western Province in their Currie Cup opener at Newlands on Saturday, with 14 first-choice players unavailable for coach John Plumtree.

The Sharks were back in Durban yesterday and there is no rest for the vanquished, with Plumtree having to put Saturday’s Super Rugby defeat behind him and prepare immediately for a fresh competition.

“We have almost a full side unavailable for Saturday,” he said. “We’ve lost 10 players to the Springboks, two more in Ryan Kankowski and Fred Michalak to overseas contracts while Pieter-Steph du Toit and Tim Whitehead are out injured.”

Plumtree said he would be working with the next tier of players in the Currie Cup.

“It is a chance for other players to come through and for me it is an opportunity to develop some players at this level, to see if they are ready for Super Rugby next year.”

Plumtree said there were “a heap of positives” to take out of the Super Rugby campaign.

“A number of youngsters were given a chance at Super Rugby level and I hope that growth will continue through Currie Cup now.

“Our leadership grew through the course of the tournament, with Keegan Daniel, Bismarck du Plessis and some of the senior players really standing up in the latter part of the competition.

“The challenge next year is for that to really kick off from the start of the tournament. We had a tough start this year with a lot of away games and some injuries to key players, especially among the forwards.”

But Plumtree is optimistic about the future of Sharks rugby.

“I’m really excited about the future of this team, having a guy like Frans Steyn back with us, and youngsters like Pieter-Steph du Toit, Marcell Coetzee, Paul Jordaan, Anton Bresler and Tim Whitehead coming through.

“Then we had players like Jean Deysel returning to full fitness and that will be good for us.”

Reflecting on the final, he said the Sharks had started well, but the error rate was too high and by half-time the players were exhausted.

“When they kicked behind us, we lost metres because we weren’t accurate with what we did, so they were getting a lot of reward. Our tackle count went up early and by half time, we looked like we had already finished a full game of rugby. There was just nothing really left in them.”

He said it was frustrating that the Sharks could not control the game.

“We need to apply pressure to give us confidence. The conditions weren’t the easiest, but the Chiefs coped better than us and we didn’t handle the wet ball as well as they did.

“You can’t underestimate travel fatigue. We played down the travel factor, but the effect on the team is huge.

“We were really focused on recovery and rest while the Chiefs had a long turnaround. That was far from ideal. For a wildcard side to go through and win this tournament continues to prove elusive.”

There was sympathy for the Sharks from the Chiefs’ management.

New coach Dave Rennie said he felt for the Sharks. “They were clearly below their best after weeks of travel. Having to make many tackles early on added to their physical toll,” he said.

Captain Craig Clarke pointed out that when the Chiefs travelled to their only previous final — against the Bulls at Loftus in 2009 — they were beaten 61-17 in the most one-sided final in history.

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