Plumtree leaves it to players

2008-10-23 00:00

REMARKABLY, after nine months of rugby and a busy season of Super 14, international and provincial rugby, Sharks head coach John Plumtree was yesterday able to announce a full-strength team to meet the Blue Bulls in tomorrow’s Currie Cup final at King’s Park.

Plumtree has been able to stay with the same group of 22 players for the past month and his line-up and reserve bench was entirely predictable.

The Sharks had 14 tough games in the Super 14 competition and 15 in the Currie Cup, while a number of players were involved in the international games in mid-season.

The Sharks and the Blue Bulls have named precisely the same line-up of players as they did for the semi-finals a fortnight ago. The Bulls, however, were hoping to have wing Akona Ndungane (injured groin) back for the final, but he failed a fitness test on Monday and John Mametsa retains his place.

The most damaging blow to the Bulls during the year was the loss of their bruising, influential lock Bakkies Botha, but their pack remains tough and physical.

Outside the Sharks camp, there was some speculation about whether World Cup-winning captain John Smit, recovering from injury, might be preferred to Bismarck du Plessis at hooker for the final, but Plumtree has been consistent in his selection and for some weeks now, it has been obvious that he would not attempt to fix what ain’t broken.

Keeping pressure on the starting XV has been an in-form and talented bench, which includes four Boks — Smit, Albert van den Berg, Deon Carstens and Waylon Murray — two lively youngsters in Keegan Daniel and Rory Kockott and consistent centre Brad Barritt.

Plumtree has been astute in his use of his replacements this season, but says that he will only call on his reserves if the situation demands it.

“I’m not into making changes simply to use the replacements. I will only make substitutions if I think it will make a difference and that depends on the state of the game.”

The Sharks have 16 internationals in the squad of 22, with only flanks Jacques Botes and Jean Deysel, lock Steven Sykes and replacements Daniel, Barritt and Kockott yet to be capped internationally.

Plumtree, in staying with the usual pattern of preparing his team for the match, said that the two camps had “different strategies and different ways of preparing, but I’ve just been focused on doing what I can do”.

“In the end, I also have to just stand back and watch them perform, but I’m really excited about the challenge.”

Sharks team for the final (kick-off 4.30pm):

15. Stefan Terblanche; 14. Odwa Ndungane; 13. Adrian Jacobs; 12. Francois Steyn; 11. JP Pietersen; 10. Frederic Michalak; 9. Ruan Pienaar; 8. Ryan Kankowski; 7. Jean Deysel; 6. Jacques Botes; 5. Johann Muller (Capt); 4. Steven Sykes; 3. Jannie du Plessis; 2. Bismarck du Plessis; 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16. John Smit; 17. Deon Carstens; 18. Albert van den Berg; 19. Keegan Daniel; 20. Rory Kockott; 21. Bradley Barritt; 22. Waylon Murray.

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