Plumtree to beef up backline for Loftus

2012-02-15 00:00

COACH John Plumtree is determined to add some magic to the Sharks backline and all the indications are that Springbok wing JP Pietersen will be at outside centre with Frenchman Freddie Michalak at scrumhalf for the Super Rugby opener against the Bulls at Loftus next weekend.

Plumtree yesterday named his 24-man squad to travel to Port Elizabeth on Friday evening to take on the Southern Kings in the final pre-season friendly and he is again looking to Pietersen and Michalak to play new roles in the Sharks starting line-up.

Pietersen, big, strong and elusive, is at outside centre for the third time in three weeks while Michalak, following his excellent showing against Boland last Friday, is named at scrumhalf ahead of pre-season favourite Charl McLeod.

Plumtree has named new signing Tim Whitehead as Pietersen’s midfield partner though it is expected that Meyer Bosman will fill that role against the Bulls.

The Sharks coach is certainly still experimenting in certain areas and has captain Keegan Daniel on the bench for this friendly with Jacques Botes on the flank and hooker Bismarck du Plessis taking over the leadership.

Bismarck’s big brother, the recently-married Springbok tighthead Jannie du Plessis, has his first outing of the season and Sharks supporters will be hoping that marital bliss does not blunt his on-field commitment.

Marcell Coetzee switches from number eight to flank to accommodate the returning Ryan Kankowski while Steven Sykes and Anton Bresler will lock the scrum with Ross Skeate on the bench.

The Sharks have been hit by a number of pre-season injuries but one of the most influential players, flank Willem Alberts, is making a rapid recovery from shoulder surgery and looked strong at yesterday’s practice.

Team doctor Ewoudt van der Linde told The Witness that Alberts was close to returning to action.

“He is making rapid progress and I believe he will be ready by round two [against the Stormers in Cape Town on March 3]. Jean Deysel is taking slightly longer and he is likely to miss the first couple of games. We have had no other injuries in the last week,” he said.

TEAM

Sharks: 15. Riaan Viljoen 14. Odwa Ndungane 13. JP Pietersen 12. Tim Whitehead 11. Lwazi Mvovo 10. Patrick Lambie 9. Frederic Michalak 8. Ryan Kankowski 7. Marcell Coetzee 6. Jacques Botes 5. Anton Bresler 4. Steven Sykes 3. Jannie du Plessis 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain) 1. Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden 17. Julian Redelinghuys 18. Wiehahn Herbst 19. Pieter-Steph du Toit 20. Ross Skeate 21. Keegan Daniel 22. Charl McLeod 23. Meyer Bosman 24. Paul Jordaan.

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