John Smit back at hooker as Plumtree makes big changes

2010-02-18 00:00

THE wheel has gone full circle for John Smit, who will celebrate his 100th game of Super rugby by returning to hooker against the Cheetahs at King’s Park tomorrow evening.

Sharks coach John Plumtree has made a number of significant selections in making six changes to the team narrowly beaten by the Chiefs at the weekend.

The most significant is in the front-row, where Smit moves from tighthead and takes over from Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis. Specialist tighthead Jannie du Plessis joins Smit and Beast Mtawarira in the front-row.

In the other two changes in the pack, the injured Johann Muller is replaced by Alistair Hargreaves and Jacques Botes replaces Keegan Daniel on the flank.

Plumtree has predictably named Ruan Pienaar at flyhalf while Springbok Adi Jacobs is at inside centre in place of Andries Strauss, as the Sharks coach looks to add much-needed punch to the back division. Strauss, an honest worker in the midfield and particularly valuable in cleaning-up at the breakdown, is perhaps unfortunate to be dropped, but he does lack the pace to create openings for those around him.

Bismarck du Plessis, a robust hooker who occasionally costs his team when he oversteps the legal mark, did so again on Saturday when he was yellow-carded for the critical final minutes of the Chiefs game. He is, apparently, disappointed by his own actions and will start tomorrow off the bench.

Plumtree told The Witness that he always planned to rotate Smit between hooker and prop.

“John is a very strong scrummaging hooker and I have been impressed with the way Jannie du Plessis has been playing at tighthead. He has worked hard on his conditioning and is getting around the field so I’ll be interested to see how this front-row goes against the Cheetahs.

“We will then have Bismarck and Deon Carstens coming off the bench so we are fortunate there.”

Prop Carstens, back to full fitness, takes over from hooker Craig Burden on the bench.

Plumtree said that he did not wish to risk lock Muller against the Cheetahs.

“The pinched nerve in his shoulder is still worrying him and we want to have him ready for the Crusaders next weekend.”

The tall Hargreaves, a former South African age group captain, replaces him tomorrow and the Sharks will be hoping that the tour to Europe with the Boks last November will have added a hard edge to his undoubted talent.

Plumtree said he was more than happy with flank Daniel’s form this season “but Botes has yet to start in any game this season and I want to see how he goes in his battle with Heinrich Brussow [the Cheetahs fetcher] on Friday.”

The Sharks coach is looking to Pie­naar and Jacobs to bring some fluency to the backplay.

“I hope the forwards can provide us with the possession and momentum which will allow Ruan and Adi to produce their magic.”

He said that he hopes the Sharks forwards will be able to drive more effectively than they did against the Chiefs.

“We tried a couple of times, but the Chiefs illegally sacked our maul. Jonathan Kaplan is the ref on Friday and he is too experienced to allow that to happen again.”

Plumtree said the 22 named to play against the Cheetahs will be joined by Johann Muller, Craig Burden, Lwazi Mvovo and Riaan Swanepoel on their five-match Super 14 tour of New Zealand and Australia.

“Louis Ludik [the new signing from the Lions] is just about ready, but he will stay behind in Durban to play some Vodacom Cup rugby. He will be on stand-by for the Sharks,” said Plumtree.

The match kicks off at 6 pm, and not 5.30 pm as previously published, and will be refereed by Jonathan Kaplan.

 

Sharks team

15. Stefan Terblanche, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Waylon Murray, 12. Adrian Jacobs, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Ruan Pienaar, 9. Rory Kockott, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis , 2. John Smit (c), 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Deon Carstens, 18. Willem Alberts, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Monty Dumond, 22. Andries Strauss

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