Plumtree expects do-or-die fight from hungry Lions

2010-09-22 00:00

SPRINGBOK prop Jannie du Plessis is likely to return to the Sharks for Saturday’s crunch Currie Cup game against the Lions at Ellis Park.

Du Plessis has been on the sidelines since the last Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies, but Sharks coach John Plumtree said yesterday that the big tighthead could be declared fit for selection.

“That will be very good,” Plumtree said at his weekly media briefing yesterday, “and will make us stronger.”

It is likely that Du Plessis will be used off the bench with Eugene van Staden, following his strong showing against the Free State Cheetahs at the weekend, retaining his place at tighthead.

“I was happy for Eugene. It was his first big start at tighthead and he came through with flying colours. I was really impressed with the scrum against the Cheetahs. Our pack was lighter than theirs, but we scrummed pretty well technically and got the rub of green with the ref’s calls.”

Plumtree was also encouraged by the display of loosehead Pat Cilliers and the improvement shown by hooker Craig Burden.

“I put Pat under pressure when I dropped him three weeks ago and he came back and showed me he is capable. And Craig is improving all the time in his tight play and he got 10 out of 10 with his lineout throwing.”

Plumtree is expecting a massive challenge from the Lions, who have shown a dramatic improvement since his good friend, fellow-New Zealander John Mitchell, took over from Dick Muir as coach.

The Lions, who had a dreadful Super 14 run, are lying at fifth, just a point outside a play-off spot, and need to beat the Sharks to have a realistic chance of reaching the semi-finals.

“They’ll be waiting for us and they’ll be pretty hungry,” said Plumtree. “It’s been a bit of a dream campaign for them and they’ll want to finish well and qualify. At some point in the competition it becomes do-or-die for certain teams and this is their weekend to get up.

“We have to make certain we win otherwise we’ll be under pressure again in terms of a home semi-final. That all makes for an interesting game.”

Plumtree said the players have been told to concern themselves with the level of performance rather than the log position.

“That is what impressed me against the Free Staters, the way we finished the game. There were always going to be times when we were under pressure and that came after half-time on Saturday.

“But the way we finished the last 15 to 20 minutes of the game was pleasing. We maintained the intensity throughout the game and we will have to do that against the Lions. We know it is going to be tough up there, we know we have to play well.”

The Sharks coach said selection will be easy.

“This is the first week I haven’t had to worry about an injury and it’s great from that perspective.

“Keegan [Daniel] has had a bit of flu and hasn’t trained, but he will be ready by Thursday [tomorrow]. Everyone else is fine so there will be consistency with selection.”

The match kicks off at 5.05 pm and Jason Jaftha will be the referee.

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