Plumtree picks Bok-laden side

2008-06-19 00:00

NEW Sharks coach John Plumtree has opted for the 22-year-old Alistair Hargreaves rather than World Cup lock Albert van den Berg for tomorrow night’s Currie Cup opener against Western Province at King’s Park.

Plumtree, who has replaced Dick Muir as head coach, has plumped for experience in most positions, with Hargreaves the only player in the starting line-up without Super 14 exposure.

Hargreaves, a former SA U19 captain and regarded as a long-term investment by the Sharks, has been carefully nurtured over the past two seasons as he has built up his strength and weight.

At two metres and 110 kg, he has a similar build to lineout specialist, the 34-year-old Van den Berg, but he has youth on his side.

In spite of the loss of a half-dozen players to the national squad, Plumtree has still been able to select a starting line-up containing seven Springboks.

The return of JP Pietersen provides him with an all-Bok back three (Stefan Terblanche, Henno Mentz and Pietersen) while he has two Boks in the front row (Jannie du Plessis and Deon Carstens) and another in lock and captain, Johann Muller.

The loss of the promising Jean Deysel to a hand injury has resulted in the selection of beefy lock Steven Sykes at flank with Jacques Botes switching to number eight.

Brad Barritt has been moved to flyhalf from centre until Frederic Michalak returns, with Waylon Murray and Andries Strauss paired in the midfield.

Plumtree conceded that experience would be critical in what will be a tough opening to the season.

“For a big contest, we need experience and we have that,” he said.

Western Province have also turned to battle-hardened veterans, rushing former Free State flyhalf Willem de Waal and ex-Sharks utility forward AJ Venter, into their starting line-up.

Lock Ross Skeate will be leading WP for the first time, while Alastair Siegelaar — in the absence of Boks Bolla Conradie and Ricky Januarie — and centre PJ Vermeulen, will be making their Currie Cup debuts.

Coach Alister Coetzee told News24 that he was glad to have the luxury of falling back on the experience of Venter and De Waal.

“Every coach in South Africa will endorse that Willem is a serious campaigner and the same goes for AJ.”

But he sees the Sharks as firm favourites.

“You can say that we will be the underdogs against the Sharks, considering all our guys that are with the Springboks. But we have assembled a young squad who are all eager to prove themselves and I have confidence in them.”

Kick-off tomorrow is 7.10 pm.

Teams

Western Province: Gio Aplon, Wylie Human, Dylan des Fountain, PJ Vermeulen, Joe Pietersen, Willem de Waal, Alistair Siegelaar, AJ Venter, Francois Louw, Pieter Myburgh, Ross Skeate (captain), Adriaan Fondse, Brok Harris, Deon Fourie, Schalk Ferreira.

Reserves: Simon Westraadt, Wikus Blaauw, Ruaan du Preez, Francois van der Merwe, Justin Melck, Paul Delport, Zhahier Ryland.

Sharks: Stefan Terblanche, JP Pietersen, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss, Henno Mentz, Brad Barritt, Rory Kockott, Jaques Botes, Steven Sykes, Keegan Daniel, Allister Hargreaves, Johann Muller (captain), Jannie du Plessis, Craig Burden, Deon Carstens.

Reserves: Skipper Badenhorst, Robbie Harris, Albert van den Berg, Skolihwe Ndlovu, Scott Mathie, Lwazi Mvovo, Andrew Borgen.

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