It’s crunch time — Plumtree

2011-10-08 00:00

THE Sharks go in search of cohesion, confidence, attacking accuracy and five Currie Cup log points at Royal Bafokeng near Rustenburg tonight when they face the bottom-of-the-log Leopards.

The Sharks, in spite of blowing hot and cold all season, are second on the log and still have ambitions of hosting a semi-final in a fortnight, but they will have to improve dramatically, winning tonight and then beating the log-leading Lions next weekend, to retain that position.

“It is crunch time for us,” said Sharks coach John Plumtree.

“Obviously we need the points to get into the play-offs and this is a huge match for us. We cannot control what happens to the other sides over the next two rounds, but there are 10 points available and we need them.”

Plumtree has mixed and matched players, dropping even seasoned internationals, in a desperate search for the most potent back division, but his big-name players have kept underperforming.

Veterans Stefan Terblanche and Marius Joubert have been benched tonight, while Frederic Michalak was omitted last weekend in Plumtree’s shake-up.

Plumtree has promoted fullback Gouws Prinsloo from the Sharks U21 team tonight, while he is hoping that two former Springboks, Adi Jacobs and Meyer Bosman, finally bring some control and authority to the midfield.

“The players have trained really well this week and it’s been one of our better weeks of the year,” said Plumtree.

“The players are excited about the opportunity [of reaching the semi-finals] and they’ve trained like that. But the proof of the pudding will be in the performance.”

Plumtree said one of the disappointments of the season has been how poorly the Sharks have performed against the smaller unions.

“These teams have taken it to our forwards physically and we know we really have to front-up there this weekend.

“It’s also about getting excited about playing the Leopards.

“They will want to knock off a bigger team in one of their last two games.

“The Leopards have big, heavy forwards so we have to play the game at a good tempo and be more accurate than last week [against Western Province].

“That’s really the challenge for us but it is going to be a pretty intense.”

The Sharks are rapidly running out of time as they seek elusive form. They made heavy weather of beating the Leopards 23-3 in Durban in the first round, scoring only three tries in a ragged display. Tonight they will have to shape up … or ship out.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Sibusiso Sithole, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Conrad Hoffmann, 8 Keegan Daniel (captain), 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Jean Deysel, 3 Eugene van Staden, 2 Kyle Cooper, 1 Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Jan Andre Marais, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 Stefan Terblanche.

Leopards: 15 Hofmann Maritz, 14 Danie Dames, 13 Charl Weideman, 12 Joubert Engelbrecht, 11 Vainon Willis, 10 Wesley Dunlop, 9 Johann Laker, 8 Robert Kruger, 7 MB Lusaseni, 6 Philip de Wet, 5 Brendon Snyman, 4 Brad Mockford, 3 Snoepie Coetzee, 2 Gavin Williamson, 1 Jean-Jacques Rossouw.

Replacements: 16 Marius Fourie, 17 Alfred Wauts, 18 Christo van Niekerk, 19 Spanner Pretorius/Siya Mdaka, 20 Liam Slatem, 21 Clayton Durand, 22 Jovan Bowles.

Referee: Joey Salmans

Kick-off: 7.10 pm

Today’s fixtures (home team first): Griquas v Bulls, 3 pm. Lions v WP, 5.05 pm. Leopards v Sharks, 7.10 pm.

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