RUGBY: Sharks welcome back stalwarts Du Plessis and Botes

2009-02-28 00:00

Hamilton — While the 2009 Super 14 tournament may still be in the infant stages, teams have not been without injury problems, but the Sharks will be welcoming back two of their stalwarts in Bismarck du Plessis and Jacques Botes against the Chiefs in Hamilton today.

While the Chiefs are having to cover for injured All Blacks Richard Kahui and Mils Muliaina, the Sharks are rotating their talent as coach John Plumtree brings in players back from injury.

“Bismarck du Plessis hasn’t had a start yet and John Smit has had some good runs and I’m happy with Keegan Daniel. It’s great to see him getting a couple of starts at this level and he’s coming through so well.

“We need to give Bismarck and Jacques Botes a start, so the Chiefs game is about picking up points and giving guys an opportunity.”

While there might be the perception that the Sharks need to perform in their opening game on tour to set the tone for the following three weeks, Plumtree said that every match brings with it an element of pressure to win. “This is a tough competition and there is pressure every week,” he admits.

It’s a different matter for the Chiefs. “They’re probably under a bit of pressure after two losses, but their road has been pretty demanding — the Crusaders and Waratahs (last year’s finalists) away from home which is a horror start for any team. But they’ll be backing themselves in a home game and if we want a result we’ll have to play really well.”

The Sharks did the unthinkable when they took to the training field in the heat of the midday sun to wrap up preparations. But this is not Durban and the low 20s in Auckland allowed Plumtree to put his players through their paces in relative comfort after morning training had to be postponed to noon to accommodate the New Zealand sevens. They sevens were training on the same field at Auckland Grammar School.

Plumtree said the Sharks have put the travel factor behind them and yesterday the team took the two-hour bus trip from Auckland to Hamilton, home of the Chiefs in the farming area of Waikato.

“We were obviously pretty tired when we arrived for the first couple of days, but I have been impressed with the intensity and talking at training. Although the accuracy wasn’t quite there at times, the players are excited and the weather’s been great.”

Not only did the Sharks have jet lag to contend with but also the effects of the oppressive weather in Durban when they played the Lions.

Plumtree admits this is a worry, but he is hoping that a massive water intake will rehydrated the players, who lost three or more kilograms in the Durban sauna.

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