Plumtree miffed by Div’s meddling in Sharks

2011-04-19 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Peter de Villiers was at King’s Park yesterday, trying to tell John Plumtree how to select his Sharks team.

De Villiers said last month that he was not happy with the way the Sharks were handling his Springbok captain John Smit.

The Sharks, with arguably the leading hooker in world rugby in the dynamic Bismarck du Plessis, have been fielding Smit at prop or playing him off the bench.

De Villiers, who was behind Smit’s switch from hooker to prop after the 2007 Rugby World Cup, now wants him back playing hooker.

“John has been playing at loosehead and tighthead for the Sharks. We already have looseheads like Gurthrö Steenkamp and Beast Mtawarira and tightheads Jannie du Plessis and CJ van der Linde to choose from.

“I am only going to consider John for the Springbok side if he plays at hooker. I am going see John Plumtree to speak to him about the matter,” De Villiers said.

Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl confirmed yesterday that De Villiers requested the meeting and travelled to Durban for discussions with Plumtree.

It would be surprising if Plumtree suddenly promoted Smit to the starting line-up as hooker and in place of the influential Du Plessis who provides the Sharks pack with a hard, physical edge.

Indeed, a number of critics around the country agree that Smit, as captain, should play the same role for the Springboks as he does for the Sharks — as a utility front-rower while also serving as back-up at hooker to Du Plessis.

The Super Rugby competition has only just reached the halfway mark and there are still eight more league games — and possibly the play-offs — to be decided and Smit, without De Villiers’ interference, is likely to see action back at hooker at some stage.

Of more concern to De Villiers should be the lack of form shown by several senior Springboks, most of them Bulls, who have already been pencilled in for the World Cup. Among them are the two veteran locks Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha, number eight Pierre Spies and halfbacks Fourie du Preez and Morné Steyn. And, down in Cape Town, wing Bryan Habana is continued his battle to find elusive form with the Stormers.

“We all know the saying form is temporary and class is permanent,” De Villiers told News 24. “If two players in the Bulls side that are not pulling their weight, the whole team suffers as a consequence and the ship sinks.

“Fourie du Preez, for example, has not played much rugby in the last six months and it’s not easy for him to get back to his best so soon. However, I feel that many of the players, who are currently not playing to their potential, have personal problems.”

De Villiers warned that he might have to look elsewhere if his chosen ones do not stand up: “I will have to reach a stage where I will have to be honest with the players. My biggest challenge is to know when a guy has had enough, when he is past his best and is simply not good enough any more.”

A World Cup training group of 49 South African players will be announced in Wellington tomorrow.

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