Sharks big guns fit for semi

2009-10-16 00:00

HEAD coach John Plumtree has named a full-strength Sharks team, including Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira and Johann Muller, for tomorrow’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Free State Cheetahs at King’s Park.

The three Springbok forwards all came through yesterday’s practice without problems and, remarkably, after a long season of Super 14, international and Currie Cup rugby, Plumtree has been able to name his strongest team.

Combative Bok hooker Du Plessis (ribs) and prop Mtawarira (shoulder) both left the field during the game against Griquas last Saturday but Plumtree told The Witness yesterday that the pair had recovered well.

“We thought Bismarck had damaged a rib cartilage which would have ruled him out but it was only a bruising of the tissue and he’s a tough guy.”

Lock Muller, who led the Sharks to the title last year, has been sidelined for most of the Currie Cup with recurring problems since breaking his arm in the opening round.

“He has trained well this past fortnight and he is now ready,” Plumtree said.

The inclusion of the three injured tight forwards and flank Jean Deysel, who started on the bench last weekend, adds a hard physical edge to the pack but Plumtree admitted that the fitness doubts had disrupted preparations this week.

“We haven’t been able to get through much scrummaging at all and I’m hoping that all the work these forwards have done together in the past, and the fact that we have the current Bok front-row, will make up for the lack of preparation.”

Also back from injury is flank Jacques Botes and this has resulted in Keegan Daniel dropping to the bench.

The only player not considered because of injury is loosehead prop Deon Carstens but the Sharks have Bok tighthead Jannie du Plessis on the bench and he may not have made the match squad of 22 anyway.

Fullback Stefan Terblanche, who has yet to lose a game as the Sharks captain, will continue in that role while Smit and Muller will add experience and leadership to the pack.

On a talented replacement bench, tall lock Albert van den Berg is preferred to Alistair Hargreaves and Monty Dumond is included ahead of Waylon Murray.

The Sharks have 12 players who started in the Currie Cup final against the Blue Bulls a year ago. The three changes are at inside centre (Riaan Swanepoel replaces Frans Steyn), Argentinian Juan Hernandez takes over from Frederic Michalak at flyhalf and John Smit replaces Jannie du Plessis at tighthead prop.

The Free Staters, with the best attacking record in the competition, are hoping for a dry pitch tomorrow but rain has been forecast and coach Naka Drotske says he could change his starting line-up if it is wet.

Plumtree said he is unconcerned about the weather.

“It doesn’t matter either way. We have to go and perform for 80 minutes if we are going to win.”

TEAMS

Sharks:

15 Stefan Terblanche (c), 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Adrian Jacobs, 12 Riaan Swanepoel, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Juan Hernandez, 9 Ruan Pienaar, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Jean Deysel, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 John Smit, 2 Bismarck du Plessis,1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Albert van den Berg, 19 Keegan Daniel, 20 Rory Kockott, Monty Dumond, 22 Andries Strauss.

Cheetahs:

15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Lionel Mapoe, 13 Corne Uys, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Jongi Nokwe, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 JP Joubert, 8 Ashley Johnson, 7 Frans Viljoen, 6 Heinrich Brussow, 5 David de Villiers, 4 Nico Breedt (k), 3 WP Nel, 2 Richardt Strauss, 1 Wian du Preez.

Replacements: 16 Coenie Oosthuizen, 17 Izak van der Westhuizen, 18 Hendro Scholtz, 19 Kabamba Floors, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Louis Strydom, 22 Fabian Juries.

Referee: Marius Jonker

Kick-off: 2.30pm

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