Muller cracks the whip

2008-09-19 00:00

THE Sharks, if they concentrate on winning a rugby match instead of running up a cricket score, will be too strong, too skilful and too organised for the Falcons in their Currie Cup outing at Kempton Park this afternoon.

The Falcons have had a torrid couple of weeks, conceding 232 points in three games and scoring only 48. Coach Rudy Joubert, in an attempt to break the Falcons’ habit of lining up behind their own posts every time they hear a whistle, has gone fishing for players, landing a couple of Sharks, a few Tukkies and an assortment of young club players in a new-look team.

Joubert has said that his fresh, enthusiastic players will come out firing and they hope to shake up a Sharks team smothered by complacency.

Coach John Plumtree said yesterday that he and the Sharks players are aware of the dangers of taking the Falcons’ challenge too lightly.

“The Falcons will be out to prove a point — we know that. It is something we have addressed all week and Johann Muller (captain) has really cracked the whip.

“The players know the end of the season is just round the corner and that every log point is crucial.”

Plumtree said prop Deon Carstens strained a calf muscle at practice on Thursday and he has been replaced by Springbok Jannie du Plessis, with Melusi “Barra” Mthethwa joining the bench.

The Sharks, he said, would not be seduced into playing helter-skelter expansive rugby from the start.

“We will concentrate on our structures as we have been in recent weeks. We have told the players that there is strong competition for every position in the team. They have to take pride in their performance.”

And, to emphasis the point, Plumtree said all the players have been set personal goals.

“I think that should ensure that they stay focused.”

Individually, there will be interest in the showing of number eight Ryan Kankowski and scrumhalf Rory Kockott, who both enjoyed their adventures in the Super 14, but have been sidelined for much of the Currie Cup, while Ruan Pienaar has another run at flyhalf.

But this contest is all about the Sharks’ mental readiness.

If they take the field prepared from the start to swap bruises with the Falcons and get their hands dirty, they will win by some distance; if they expect a gentle trip against soft opposition, they may still win, but it will be an uncomfortable ride.

Plumtree, with every reason, will then spend his early evening following the action in Bloemfontein where Free State, the champions, are playing for their Currie Cup lives against a powerful-looking Blue Bulls team.

A Free State win should ensure a semi-final spot and will almost certainly provide the Sharks with a free ride to a home semi-final, and if they advance, a King’s Park final. The Sharks are currently two points clear of the Bulls, and if the Pretoria side fail against Free State, Plumtree’s team will be in an almost unassailable position. Even defeat to the Lions at Ellis Park next Saturday would not then deny them top spot.

Plumtree believes the Cheetahs can win.

“They lost to Province at home and they lost to us last week. The Free Staters will be tough to beat back in their own backyard, even if the Bulls are strong.”

Victory — one free of injury and citings, in Kempton Park — coupled with a Free State win in Bloemfontein, would make for a perfect Sharks weekend.

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