Sharks eye Blues warily after ace showing against Crusaders

2011-02-24 00:00

THE Sharks are understandably concerned at the threat posed by the Blues in Saturday evening’s Super Rugby game at King’s Park.

While the Sharks stuttered to their expected win over the Cheetahs, the Blues produced a superb second-half showing in downing a strong Crusaders team 24-22 in Auckland.

Significantly, the Blues and Crusaders played at pace and high intensity, yet only eight handling errors were made in the entire match.

In contrast, and admittedly in poor conditions, the Sharks and Cheetahs were sluggish and made a string of handling mistakes.

The Blues were also secure in the tackle with an 86% return and they lost only two of their own lineouts.

Sharks head coach John Plumtree said that the Blues, confident and dangerous, would provide a searching test of his team’s defence.

“I picked them to win against the Crusaders because they’ve got a really good side and the Crusaders are traditionally slow starters,” Plumtree said.

He said the Cheetahs had hardly tested the Sharks’ defence as they kept kicking for territory.

“There was very little chance for any turnovers because they never ran at us. We only had to make about 50 tackles. What is certain is that the Blues will provide us with far more of a test.”

Plumtree said that it would be a boost to start their overseas tour on Sunday with a second win.

“We want to play well in front of our own supporters, but every game is important and we will also want to start our tour well against the Western Force.

Plumtree said the collision area “would be big” against the Blues.

“That’s an area we enjoy as well and that makes the contest intriguing. Both sides have some good talent and big forwards, so the collisions, the breakdown, the scrummaging and the driving, will be important.

“They will know what to expect from us and we certainly know how they play the game.”

Springbok and Sharks captain John Smit is likely to miss out for the second week with a grade one calf tear. Smit said yesterday that he hopes to be on the bench when the team is named today, but even that is only a 50% possibility with Plumtree reluctant to gamble on an injury this early in the season.

Keegan Daniel is likely to replace Jacques Botes (rib injury) in the starting line-up while JP Pietersen, back from a slight hamstring strain, could be on the wing in place of Odwa Ndungane.

Kick-off: 5.05 pm on Saturday.

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