Plumtree juggles pairings as Sharks build form

2008-08-28 00:00

THE Sharks, fresh from their mid-season break, will be looking to pick up where they left off against Western Province three weeks back when they face Boland in a Currie Cup rugby match in Wellington this afternoon.

The Sharks, with excellent away wins against Griquas and Province, have played themselves into a strong position on the log. They are currently in third spot (28 points), but their second-round games against the top two teams, Free State (32 points) and the Bulls (29), are both in Durban over the following two weekends.

They will also be boosted by the return of their Springboks and a number of injured players from next week, but first have to see off what should be a spirited Boland challenge this afternoon.

The form of John Plumtree’s squad has improved markedly in recent weeks after he revised their game plan and returned to a more direct approach.

There is, of course, a timely lesson there for Springbok coach Peter de Villiers — if he were prepared to learn from those around him.

Plumtree’s problem is continuity in a team beset by injuries and with Boks coming and, mostly, going.

He has been forced to make six changes to the side which beat Province 32-10. There is a new wing in Waylon Murray, a fresh centre pairing in Riaan Swanepoel and Bradley Barritt, and Charl McLeod is making his first start at scrumhalf. Captain and lock Johann Muller is out injured and the promising Patric Cilliers finally returns from injury on the tighthead for Bok Jannie du Plessis.

The Sharks, on paper, remain a potent combination, with Jean Deysel and his fellow loose forwards,and flyhalf Frederic Michalak, providing them with what should be a decisive edge.

But Plumtree knows they will have to play well at a ground where fancied visiting teams traditionally struggle.

“We are playing well collectively, but we have taken a step back in terms of continuity,” said Plumtree. “We need to make sure we’re disciplined and our game plan is suited to conditions.

“We have a lot of respect for Boland. They have a physical pack and Isma-eel Dollie at flyhalf directs the traffic well.”

The Sharks, if they retain their focus and take the game to the Boland forwards on what could be a wet and windy day, should control and win this contest. But if they take victory for granted and fail to build a platform, the Bolanders, as they have done often in the past, will delight in taking chunks out of them.

TEAMS:

Sharks: Stefan Terblanche, Chris Jordaan, Riaan Swanepoel , Bradley Barritt, (capt.), Waylon Murray, Frederic Michalak, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel,

Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Alistair Hargreaves, Albert van den Berg, Deon Carstens , Skipper Badenhorst, Patric Cilliers.

Replacements: Craig Burden, Melusi “Barra” Mthethwa, Steven Sykes,

Skholiwe Ndlovu, Rory Kockott, Andries Strauss, Monty Dumond.

Boland: Justin Peach, Danwel Demas, Cornell Hendricks, Lionel Cornelius, Alvin

Hugo, Isma-eel Dollie, Neil Papier, Dries van Schalkwyk, Angelo Brinkhuis,

Zolani Mofu, Bradley Mockford, Frikkie Spies, WP Nel, Clemen Lewis, Janro van Niekerk.

Replacements: Harry Vermaas, Jean Botha, Nico Esterhuyse, Whalied Heyns, Danie van der Merwe, Elgar Watts, Deon Scholtz.

The match kicks off at 4 pm today and will be screened by SuperSport.

Brad Barritt, who will captain the Sharks in the absence of the injured Johann Muller.

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