Plum calls on fans’ support

2012-08-18 00:00

COACH John Plumtree says the Sharks need all the help they can get when they take on the fired-up Currie Cup champions, the Golden Lions, at King’s Park tonight.

The persecuted Lions, feeling unloved, unwanted and out to prove a point, travel to Durban with close to their full-strength Super Rugby squad, while the second-string Sharks are missing a good dozen of their first-choice selections.

Plumtree says he is looking to a big and vocal crowd to lift his players and he is no doubt also hoping that referee Mark Lawrence, by way of a change this season, will smile kindly on his players.

The Sharks coach is aware that the curtain-raiser in Cape Town — the Springboks play Argentina at 5 pm — will be a major distraction. “We’re hoping to have a good crowd to support us. They can watch the Bok game on screens at King’s Park before we play. It is so important for us to get a crowd here.

“We’ve lost to the Lions with full-strength sides [in the Currie Cup final last year and the Super Rugby game in June], so with 14 or 15 guys out, we won’t be favourites to win this one. We certainly are looking to the fans to help us out.”

Plumtree said that winning home games was vital in this reduced six-team competition. “If you manage to pinch one away [as the Sharks did in Cape Town a week ago], but drop one at home, it negates the good work. So this game is very important.”

The Sharks took a satisfying win, but very little else, from a wet Newlands last Saturday.

Western Province were, in a word, dreadful, incapable of turning their domination of territory, possession and the referee into points.

The Sharks battled in the set pieces and were hammered for their poor discipline. They offered little but tenacious defence and an ability to take their very few scoring chances.

Penalties could be a problem again today as Lawrence, a stickler at the breakdown, has consistently punished them in Super Rugby this year.

But the Sharks will be better than they were at Newlands. Not only will they be more settled and better prepared, but Louis Ludik, Charl McLeod and Anton Bresler return to add Super Rugby experience to their depleted ranks.

They know they will have to improve dramatically to overcome opponents who have been together through the Super Rugby season.

The Lions, as Currie Cup champions, will arrive with fire in their bellies, determined to show that they are a major force in domestic rugby and that the wishy-washy South African rugby administrators were wrong to boot them out of the Super Rugby competition on Thursday.

With former Sharks and Springbok flyhalf Butch James steering the ship, and kicking the goals, they were the pick of the teams in the first round last weekend, easily taking care of the Free Staters at Ellis Park.

James, back on his old stamping ground, would enjoy making a point against some of his old Sharks team-mates and he has the players around him to get the job done.

The champions are now under former Sharks lock Johan Ackermann, the only one left standing after the Lions’ two senior coaches — New Zealanders John Mitchell and Carlos Spencer — were axed.

He is expecting a physical contest, similar to a Super Rugby derby.

“The Sharks will be very positive after their win in Cape Town, so it will be a tough game,” he said.

It should also be a close, entertaining contest between two well-matched teams keen to keep the ball in hand.

And, if you are not doing anything tonight, why not pop down to King’s Park. Plum would be awfully pleased to see you.

TEAMS

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 S’bura Sithole, 10 Riaan Viljoen, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Jacques Botes, 7 Jean Deysel (c), 6 Francois Kleinhans, 5 Anton Bresler, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Wiehahn Herbst, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: 16 Monde Hadebe, 17 Julian Redelinghuys, 18 Jandré Marais, 19. Tera Mtembu, 20 Cobus Reinach, 21 Marius Joubert, 22 Gouws Prinsloo

Golden Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 JR Esterhuizen, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Butch James, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Warren Whiteley, 7 Joshua Strauss, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Jacobie Adriaanse, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (c).

Replacements: 16 Francois du Toit, 17 CJ van der Linde, 18 Willie Britz, 19 Jaco Kriel, 20 Ross Cronje, 21 Guy Cronje, 22 Ruan Combrinck.

Referee: Mark Lawrence. Kick-off: 7.15 pm.

Curtain-raisers: Sharks U21 vs Blue Bulls U21, 4.45 pm; Sharks U19 vs Blue Bulls U19; 3.00 pm.

ALSO TODAY

Currie Cup: Griquas vs WP, 2.30 pm.

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