Plumtree waits to announce Sharks squad

2009-02-11 00:00

The Sharks’ John Plumtree, in contrast to Rassie Erasmus of the Stormers, was yesterday playing the waiting game ahead of Saturday’s Super 14 opener at Newlands in Cape Town.

While Erasmus, who usually plays his cards close to his chest, popped up yesterday to name his starting line-up in spite of injury concerns, Plumtree will only settle on his squad today.

Plumtree will mix and match his front-row, possibly starting with Deon Carstens at loosehead — in place of the injured Beast Mtawarira — John Smit at hooker, with Bismarck du Plessis on the bench, and Jannie du Plessis at tighthead. What is certain is that Smit, who has enjoyed a solid build-up to the season, will rotate and be used at both hooker and prop at Newlands.

The rest of the Sharks line-up will be as expected with, perhaps, a slight doubt about whether Jacques Botes or Keegan Daniel will start on the flank.

Plumtree said that the Newlands game could be as demanding as any game this season for the Sharks.

“A packed Newlands has to be one of the toughest challenges in the competition,” he said, adding that the pressure was on the Stormers. “In this competition, you have to win your home games if you want to be realistically in it.

“If you lose your home games you’re going to struggle, so it is important for them to get a win and get off to a good start. But we’re also placing an emphasis on winning. This is like a home game for us because it’s in South Africa and we’ll get some support down there, so the boys certainly won’t be intimidated.”

The coach said the approach of the two teams would be slightly different: “We’re looking at performance and they’re probably looking at the result.”

“We’re just looking to get our game going, the same that we had going last year and we’ll be closer to it against the Stormers than we were in the Bulls warm-up.”

Plumtree is convinced the game will be won and lost in the physical battle.

“If it’s won technically or tactically, I’d be surprised,” he said. “I think it will probably be won by sheer brute force. It will be typical South African sides having a crack at each other with the team that dominates the collision that comes out on top.

“There are plenty of Springboks in both sides, they will know if they hurt us at the collision area and dominate the gain line, we could be chasing shadows all day. I guess they would be saying the same thing. Really, it is going to be about the side that is tougher at the set-piece and breakdown area.”

Plumtree is hoping that South African referee Mark Lawrence plays his role in the contest.

“Mark Lawrence has a big job refereeing the scrum. We want a legal contest because there are ways of upsetting a dominant scrum — by a lot of collapsing or angling in, so we just want a straight contest at the scrum and it is an area they will know we will look at targeting.

“It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to work that out, but that [scrummaging] contest has to be very well-refereed to be a factor for us.

“We’ve been training really hard for the past nine, ten weeks and now it’s arrived.

Unfortunately we’ve had a few little niggles in terms of injuries along the way, but we are looking forward to the start of the competition,” Plumtree said.

The match kicks off at 5 pm on Saturday.

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