Hurricanes clash won’t be a breeze

2011-04-23 00:00

THE Sharks, by going to school on what happened at Bloemfontein a week ago, will overcome the Hurricanes in the Super Rugby match at King’s Park this evening.

The Hurricanes’ helter-skelter game against the Cheetahs last Saturday, a lottery, saw the lead change 12 times. On the final hooter it was Hurricanes’ number as they scored the 11th try of the match to win 50-47.

The lessons of Bloemfontein are obvious and coach John Plumtree will have spent the week emphasising the importance of the Sharks making their first tackles and protecting their possession in exploiting the porous Hurricanes’ defence. The Hurricanes, in turn, only have to look at the Bloem scoreline, and the leaking of 47 points, to know where their problems lie and they have had the week to work on their defensive limitations.

The Hurricanes’ assistant coach, Alama Ieremia, described the Bloem victory as “huge” in lifting the spirits of the players, but admitted that the Sharks would test their defences even more than the Cheetahs.

“We need to work harder on defence around the rucks, our tackling around the fringes against the Sharks,” he said.

Plumtree, a former Wellington Hurricanes coach, is as aware as anyone of the threat posed by the New Zealanders, and the Sharks will not have been allowed to read too much into the 47 points conceded in Bloemfontein.

“You just cannot take the Hurricanes lightly,” said Plumtree, “even if you feel you’re getting on top of them on the scoreboard, because of all the attacking players they have.

“There are a number of threats and plenty for us to be concerned about.”

The Hurricanes, as they showed against the Cheetahs, can punish teams from anywhere on the field and they feed voraciously on turnover ball. They are further strengthened tonight by the return of All Black Cory Jane, a quick, elusive runner, who will play at fullback while wing Hosea Gear, another Test player, is a sharp finisher.

But it is Ma’a Nonu, the powerful All Black centre battling with his form this year, who bothers Plumtree the most.

“I hope he hasn’t been waiting to explode against his old coach,” said Plumtree. “By his standards he’s been below his best, but the Hurricanes changed their attacking game against the Cheetahs and this frees him up more.”

He said it is crucial against a team like the Hurricanes to dominate the gainline on defence and Nonu and company will have to be closed down quickly.

Plumtree has made six changes to his starting line-up with the return of Pat Lambie at flyhalf and the selection of John Smit at hooker the most significant.

The smooth distribution of Lambie will bring composure and cohesion to the Sharks’ backplay and should help centres Meyer Bosman and Stefan Terblanche find some attacking spark.

The Sharks will miss the physicality and high workrate of hooker Bismarck du Plessis, but Smit will be determined to show his detractors, and Bok coach Peter de Villiers, there is still life in the old dog and that he is more than a non-playing captain.

The three others returning to the team, wing Lwazi Mvovo, flank Jacques Botes and lock Ross Skeate, have spent most of the season either on the bench or the sidelines, and they will bring an energy and enthusiasm to the side.

Their selection also leaves the Sharks with a powerful bench, one which includes Odwa Ndungane, Adi Jacobs, Keegan Daniel and Craig Burden, and these replacements should make a lively impact in the final quarter.

The Sharks, behind a stronger pack, look the more organised outfit both on defence and attack, and it would be a massive disappointment if they did not win this match on their home ground.

The danger is that the 97-point frolic in Bloemfontein last week will have seduced them into thinking that the Hurricanes will be a soft touch. But, if they keep their minds on the job, hold their defensive lines and their possession, they will win. Conversely, if they become reckless, concede possession and miss tackles, they will be punished … just as the Free Staters were.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Eugene van Staden, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Gerhard Mostert, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Adrian Jacobs, 22 Odwa Ndungane.

Hurricanes: 15. Cory Jane, 14 Alapati Leiua, 13. Jayden Hayward, 12. Ma’a Nonu 11 Hosea Gear, 10. Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9. Tyson Keats, 8. Victor Vito, 7. Serge Lilo, 6. Jack Lam, 5. James Broadhurst, 4. Jeremy Thrush, 3. Neemia Tialata, 2. Andrew Hore (c), 1. John Schwalgar.

Replacements: 16. Dane Coles, 17. Michael Bent, 18. Jason Eaton, 19. Faifili Levave, 20. Chris Eaton, 21. Beauden Barrett, 22. Andre Taylor.

Referee: Stuart Dickinson (Australia). Kick-off: 5.05 pm (SS1).

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