Plumtree, Pietersen offer to help Boks

2009-06-05 00:00

TWO Sharks — coach John Plumtree and wing JP Pietersen — yesterday put up their hands and offered to help the Springboks bring down the touring British Lions in the three-Test series that starts in Durban on June 20.

Plumtree, according to News24, will be used by the Springboks in Durban as they set about brushing up on their work at the breakdown, an area that the Lions aim to target in the Tests.

And Pieteresen told reporters that he would be happy to switch from wing to fullback to fill the hole left by the injury to Conrad Jantjes and the omission of specialists Stefan Terblanche and Zane Kirchner.

Plumtree is to join the Boks when they arrive in Durban next week for their fortnight’s build-up to the first Test.

“The breakdowns and the kicking game of the respective teams will determine the outcome of this series, so it is crucial that we get that aspect of the game right,” said Springbok assistant coach Gary Gold yesterday.

“The breakdown is coached really well in the northern hemisphere. I think that is because they have more breakdowns there; there is a greater stress on slow ball management than there is with us in the south.

“There is a lot of emphasis over there on how the players operate together at the breakdown.”

Plumtree has coached in both Wales and New Zealand and has helped the Springboks briefly in the past.

Both Gold and Springbok backline coach Dick Muir praised the British Lions after their 74-10 drubbing of the other Lions, “the tame pussycats”, at Ellis Park, on Wednesday night.

”It was an impressive performance from the Lions, and there was a lot that we picked up that we did not know about them before.

“They are a formidable team who have a reasonable amount of time to prepare and get themselves ready to play us.”

Former Bok centre Muir was impressed with the Lions midfield pairing of Jamie Roberts and Brian O’Driscoll.

“We always thought that Roberts and O’Driscoll would be the Lions’ Test combination in the midfield, and in the Johannesburg game they showed us why. But we also have a strong midfield and it will be motivation for our guys,” said Muir.

Meanwhile, in the Bok camp, Pietersen told reporters that he would have “no problem” moving to fullback if he was called on to do so.

Pietersen’s name was the first pulled from the hat by Bok coach Peter de Villiers when he was asked which of his utility backs would play at fullback in the Tests.

However, it is expected that Frans Steyn, if he is fit and flourishing, will start at fullback with Jaque Fourie the other possible candidate.

Pietersen made his debut for both the Sharks and the Boks, in 2006, at fullback, but has spent the last two years on the wing.

“I don’t think it will be a problem moving back to fullback and I will play wherever I’m needed.

“The last time I played there was against the All Blacks in Christchurch in 2007 and I think I’m definitely a more mature player than when I started my career.”

Pietersen’s kicking out of hand is seen as a problem, but he said he has worked hard on that aspect of his game and has improved markedly.

Pietersen said the Lions rush defence was the most impressive feature of their win over the disheartened Ellis Park rabble.

British Lions coach Ian McGeechan praised his troops after their victory while opposing captain Cobus Grobbelaar, predictably, warned that the tourists are “a very good side indeed”.

McGeechan said “there was a lot of accuracy, good tactical decisions, and we finished well”.

Grobbelaar was impressed with the decision-making of the tourists though his team’s limp, confused defence and lack of any cohesive game plan — hardly surprising after their head coach Loffie Eloff was sacked days before — made it easy for McGeecham’s men.

“Their rucking was at least as physical as in the Super 14, and their defence was outstanding,” said Grobbelaar.

What is certain is that the Free State Cheetahs, in their own backyard in Bloemfontein tomorrow (3 pm), will provide the Lions with a far more testing catfight.

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