Injuries interrupt Sharks training

2009-10-14 00:00

INJURIES have disrupted the Sharks’ preparations for Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against Free State, but coach John Plumtree is still hoping to have his full squad available.

Plumtree said yesterday that an injury cloud still hung over Springbok front-rowers, hooker Bismarck du Plessis (ribs) and Beast Mtawarira (shoulder), and they had only trained lightly this weekend.

“We have the day off [today] and we are hoping that by [Thursday] they will be a lot better. It is a big game and both are desperate to play, but they will only be selected if they are fit.”

Plumtree said that Springbok lock Johann Muller, who has struggled all Currie Cup season to overcome an arm injury, had been training hard and “he could also make it”.

Flank Jacque Botes and prop Deon Carstens will face fitness tests tomorrow morning before the match squad of 22 is named.

Both Plumtree and captain Stefan Terblanche were quick to acknowledge the strength of Free State and the threat they will pose in the semi-final.

“We have enormous respect for the Free Staters who will come into this game with lots of confidence,” said Plumtree.

“It will certainly be a lot tougher than last year’s semi-final win over the Lions.”

The Sharks coach said that the players were already focused on the game.

“Everyone is on edge and we will need to be.

“You can be playing well and looking comfortable against the Cheetahs and then suddenly, bang, they’ve scored out wide.”

Plumtree said the success of the Springbok team had probably made it more difficult to integrate the large group of returning national players.

“I think when you have players coming back from a successful campaign, it can be hard for them to get back up again at Currie Cup level. If they return from a bad international season, they are usually more determined to prove something and turn things around.”

He said that a number of players, like JP Pietersen and Adi Jacobs, had not had much game time in four or five weeks.

“But we saw some change last Saturday against Griquas with a number of the Springboks stepping up, and the intensity is going to be even higher this week.”

Plumtree paid tribute to the young players who had ensured that the Sharks ended the season on top of the log.

“Everyone has performed well and the youngsters have grown, but the responsibility now shifts to the seniors, the players coming back, for what will be a big game.”

He said that the coaching of former Springbok prop Os du Randt had lifted the Cheetahs pack.

“They gave our forwards a bit of a hiding last game (won 24-13 by the Sharks) and this week we have not had a great week of preparation because of the injury doubts. But we have to get over that and take care of everything the Cheetahs throw at us.”

He described the Cheetahs as “a working man’s side.”

“They have a tight five who work for each other and then there are some outstanding individuals in the back row.”

Terblanche said the fact that the Free Staters had come back from losing their first four games to reach the semi-finals made them exceptionally dangerous.

“They’re an 80 minute team and they just don’t go away. They are structured, but they also have threatening individuals like [flank] Heinrich Brüssow and strike runners out wide.”

Terblanche said the presence of Bok captain John Smit in the pack was a major boost.

“His record speaks for itself and he communicates well with the rest of the team and the referee.”

Both Plumtree and Terblanche are hoping the Sharks receive strong support from their home crowd.

“There’s a perception out there that we will be in a final again,” said Plumtree, “but it will be very tight and we need some serious support.

“Otherwise there is no advantage to playing a semi-final at home,” he added with a smile.

The Sharks-Free State semi-final kicks off at 2.30 pm and will be refereed by Zululand’s Marius Jonker, with Mark Lawrence in charge of the WP vs Bulls play-off in Cape Town at 5 pm. Jonathan Kaplan will handle the Currie Cup final, his fifth, on October 31, while Craig Joubert will referee the First Division final between the Pumas and SWD.

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