Sharks coach aims for continuity in Force clash

2011-03-04 00:00

SHARKS head coach John Plumtree, seeking continuity in the early weeks of a long season, has made just one change to his starting line-up for tomorrow’s Super Rugby outing against the Western Force in Perth.

The Sharks have opened the season with two important home wins, but Plumtree is looking for greater cohesion on attack and, apart from the return of JP Pietersen for Lwazi Mvovo on the wing, he will field the same line-up that started against the Blues at King’s Park last Saturday.

It was expected that Pietersen, over his hamstring strain, would replace Odwa Ndungane, but Mvovo did limp from the field late in the game on Saturday and he will play off the bench tomorrow.

Plumtree has also opted to start with Sharks captain John Smit on the bench. Smit, fitter and eight kilograms lighter than last season, did look rusty when he came on as the replacement hooker for Bismarck du Plessis against the Blues and he clearly needs more rugby. But he will cover the prop positions tomorrow with Craig Burden, taking over from injured prop Eugene van Staden, named as the reserve hooker.

Flank Jacques Botes, over his rib problem, is also back for Lambert Groenewald and he joins a strong replacement bench.

The Force had a bye last weekend but they were impressive in their opening game against the Reds when they lost by one point in Brisbane. Coach Richard Graham has stayed with the same starting line-up and the only change to the 22 is on the bench where veteran Wallaby prop Matt Dunning returns.

Graham has kept the 20-year-old James O’Connor at flyhalf and he is looking to his players to build on their good work in Brisbane.

“The team has now been able to train and prepare together throughout the bye week and into this week,” Graham said. “We go into the game knowing the way we want to play and having a better understanding of each other’s qualities.

“It is important that we’re competitive and the boys are fighting for their positions and I think that has definitely been evident in our preparation.”

Graham said the Sharks would provide his players with a tough evening.

“Their performances over the past two games [against the Cheetahs and the Blues] have been very good. They’re a big physical side and certainly, if you look statistically at their games, the forward pack plays a huge part in their attack. That’s here they’ll look to establish dominance,” he said.

“For us it’s great to be back at home, we receive fantastic support from our sea of blue and are looking forward to playing in front of them on Saturday night.”

A victory over the Force will see the Sharks equal the record for most Super Rugby victories by a South African team against Australian opposition.

The Sharks have beaten Australian opponents 22 times and the Bulls have won on 23 occasions.

The Sharks have beaten the Brumbies seven times, the Reds six times, the Waratahs five times and the Force on four occasions.

 

TEAMS:

Sharks — 15. Louis Ludik, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. Stefan Terblanche (capt), 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. JP Pietersen, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Willem Alberts, 6. Keegan Daniel, 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis, 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16. Craig Burden,17. John Smit, 18. Anton Bresler, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Conrad Hoffmann, 21. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22. Lwazi Mvovo.

Force – 15 Cameron Shepherd, 14 Nick Cummins, 13 Mitch Inman, 12 Gene Fairbanks, 11 David Smith, 10 James O’Connor, 9 Brett Sheehan, 8 Richard Brown, 7 David Pocock, 6 Matt Hodgson, 5 Nathan Sharpe (capt), 4 Ben McCalman, 3 Tim Fairbrother, 2 Ben Whittaker, 1 Pek Cowan.

Replacements: 16 Nathan Charles, 17 Matt Dunning, 18 Sam Wykes, 19 Tevita Metuisela, 20 James Stannard, 21 Alfie Mafi, 22 Rory Sidey.

Kick-off: 1305.

Weekend games (home team first, SA times):

Today: Crusaders vs Waratahs 08.35

Lions vs Blues 19.10

Tomorrow: Chiefs vs Rebels 08.35

Brumbies vs Reds 10.40

Force vs Sharks 13.05

Stormers vs Cheetahs 17.05

Bulls vs Highlanders 19.10

Bye: Hurricanes

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