Fresh fins in the tank

2015-03-24 00:00

WHILE regular Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis will take no part in his side’s Super Rugby campaign for the next four weeks, Frans Steyn was let off the hook yesterday and is set to fill in for the rested Pat Lambie.

Steyn, alongside Du Plessis, received a red card in Saturday’s clash against the Chiefs. The Sharks inside centre was adjudged to have tip-tackled Chiefs pivot Aaron Cruden during the match. But at a Sanzar judicial hearing yesterday, Steyn was found to be not guilty and had the red card struck off his record.

“It’s a massive boost that Frans is available, it provides stability to the team, especially when we will be forced to make changes with the resting of the Springboks. It was something we were pondering about, but it’s great news for us, and I think it was a fair call,” assistant coach Paul Anthony said after practice yesterday.

The Sharks would have been in quite a pickle this week if Steyn had been made unavailable. Director of rugby Gary Gold and his coaching staff were set to rest three key Boks in Lambie, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and flank Marcell Coetzee in accordance with Saru’s Bok management agreement.

Had the decision on Steyn’s tackle been upheld, the Sharks would have been down four Springboks for this weekend’s clash against the Force.

Meanwhile Lambie is set to sit out for two weeks — as was planned — but he also suffered a groin strain, which came ironically at a good time.

“Pat’s in good shape, he’ll be fine. Effectively the two-week break will be good enough. He’s taking his rest week now which he thoroughly deserves; he’s been magnificent for us. We will miss him but we know the guys coming in will sort that out,” Anthony said of the Springbok flyhalf.

It looks likely that Steyn will direct the traffic at flyhalf in Lambie’s absence and considering he was named as one of four co-captains in the preseason, Steyn is probably going to wear the captain’s armband this weekend, although Anthony could not confirm that so early in the week.

There is no doubt that Saturday’s match was once in a lifetime and the Sharks showed tremendous character to hold out for a win with two men off the field for more than 60 minutes. But the lesson was well learned and Anthony believes it provided an amazing test of character for a team that is finally starting to gel.

“With that character display against the Chiefs behind us, and if we can keep our discipline and mould that into a 15-man onslaught, that would be great. We really want to have a crack at it, but we know the Force will be hurting and just itching to come back after last weekend’s last-minute loss to the Bulls, so we will have to be mentally and physical prepared.”

With that being said, the Sharks team is likely to feature a number of fresh faces against the Force according to Anthony. The Australian side are 13th on the Super Rugby log and have just one win from six games.

“We’ve prepared adequately because we knew the Boks would have to be rested. We always had a rotation policy. Everyone in the squad is part of the package and they know they are all going to get a chance to play. We’ve planned for this, we’re ready. And we will be prepared for it in the future, because it’s going to happen again.”

As for the challenge the Force pose, Anthony didn’t know quite what to expect from a side who managed to pip the Waratahs in the opening round of the competition.

“They’re a surprise package because they study teams. They won’t be the same team that played the Bulls, they’ll have a look at where they think we’re vulnerable and every week they tend to bring something different. We’ve prepared for every eventuality from them, and tried to plug any holes where we think we’ll be vulnerable.”

“We have no illusions about the threat we are facing, we’re going to come out and continue where we left off against the Chiefs,” Anthony said.

The biggest question that needs to be addressed is the Sharks apparent lack of discipline. Du Plessis clearly had a rush of blood to the head, but Anthony believes his charges are more focused on a good performance.

“Discipline is not a yellow or red card issue for us, it’s about keeping to the structures and game plan, although Gary addressed that issue very well with the entire squad. Discipline, for us, is stick with the structures, work for one another, do what we’ve been coached to do and we’ll be happy.”

The Sharks host the Force in Durban this Saturday. Kickoff is at 5.05 pm.

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