Plumtree’s major worry is Sharks’ complacency in clash with Leopards

2009-09-25 00:00

IF the Sharks keep their heads out of the clouds and their eyes on the ball, they will chalk up a lopsided win over the Leopards in their Absa Currie Cup match at Absa Stadium this evening.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree has said this week that his players must show respect for the Leopards, who have struggled in the big time and travel badly. The Sharks thumped the Leopards 44-15, six tries to two, in the first-round game in Phokeng, and changes to the two sides since suggest that gap will be even wider tonight.

The Sharks have added three current Springboks (Ruan Pienaar, Ryan Kankowski and Jannie du Plessis) to their starting line-up with two more (Adi Jacobs and Bismarck du Plessis) on the powerful bench, while the struggling Leopards this week lost five players, including their captain Wilhelm Koch, to injury.

Complacency, obviously, is Plumtree’s chief concern with the log-leading Sharks needing a bonus point win to stay ahead of second-placed Western Province and secure home ground advantage in the play-offs.

As Plumtree pointed out, the Leopards will be excited about the prospect of playing under the bright lights at a major rugby venue and the Sharks will have to smother that early enthusiasm before they worry about scoring the four points for a bonus point.

There is certainly enough competition for places in the Sharks squad to ensure that players do not just lie back and think of future glory. This is particularly true of the midfield where Riaan Swanepoel, Adi Jacobs and today’s pairing of Waylon Murray and Andries Strauss will all be fighting over two spots in the weeks ahead.

But interest this evening will certainly be focused on the Sharks halfback pairing of Argentinian flyhalf Juan Martin Hernandez and Ruan Pienaar, who is delighted to be back at scrumhalf after being used as a jack of all trades in the Springbok squad.

Plumtree has made it clear that he sees Hernandez and Pienaar as the Sharks’ halfbacks of the future and this evening’s game should provide the pair with the time, space and possession they need to build their confidence and an exciting new partnership.

The tempo and flow of this game will depend on the Sharks’ pack and how quickly they can dictate the exchanges up front. If the forwards get down and do the dirty work in the opening quarter, the Sharks’ numerous attacking options will carry them to the most emphatic of wins.

TEAMS

SHARKS: Stefan Terblanche (c), Luzuko Vulindlu, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss, Lwazi Mvovo, Juan Hernandez, Ruan Pienaar, Ryan Kankowski, Michael Rhodes, Jacques Botes, Albert van den Berg, Alistair Hargreaves, Jannie du Plessis, Skipper Badenhorst, Patric Cilliers.

Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Deon Carstens, Steven Sykes, Keegan Daniel, Rory Kockott, Monty Dumond, Adrian Jacobs

LEOPARDS: Danie Dames; Jovan Bowles, Deon van Rensburg, Berndt Theissinger, Jan van Zyl; Clayton Durand, Jean Tiedt; RW Kember, Thabo Mamojele, Andre Swanepoel , Draad Linde, Ligtoring Landman, Os van der Walt, Gavin Williamson, Divan Kotz.

Replacements: Pellow van der Westhuizen, Nardus Lombard, Bennie Adams, Riaan Swanepoel, Chris Erasmus, Neil Jacobs, Bom Samaai.

 

Kick-off: 7.10pm – live on SuperSport 1

Referee: Jonathan Kaplan

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