Sharks facing ‘a tough January’

2009-01-05 00:00

THREE of their senior players are recovering from surgery but the Sharks yesterday returned to the training ground at King’s Park full of Christmas cheer and looking forward to the challenges of the Super 14.

Head coach John Plumtree said that the Sharks face a tough January, “with three sessions a day” — as they prepare for the Super 14, which starts with an away game against the Stormers in Cape Town on February 14 followed by their first home game against the Lions a week later.

They have three players — Jacques Botes, Albert van den Berg and Bismarck du Plessis — recovering from minor surgery.

“We will be going easy on them for the next two or three weeks, but they should all be ready for the start of the Super 14,” said Plumtree.

The Sharks will play their first pre-season friendly against the Cheetahs — in far-off United Arab Emirates on January 24. The match is to be played at the Al Jazira Stadium in Abu Dhabi and that will be a first for the South African teams.

Plumtree said nearly all the Sharks who toured Britain with the Springboks at the end of the year would not travel.

“A chap like Odwa Ndungane, who saw little action on tour, may well play in the friendly against the Cheetahs, but nearly all the other Boks will stay behind for specialist training for the Super 14.”

The Sharks play a second friendly against the Bulls — if that is possible against their bitter rivals — at King’s Park on February 4. The contest, a replay of the 2008 Currie Cup and 2007 Super 14 finals, will provide an ideal, if bruising, final dress rehearsal for the Super 14.

The Sharks have every reason to approach the Super 14 season with their heads high.

They ended the 2008 season with the Currie Cup safely secured in Durban, many of their high-profile players excelled on the season-ending Springbok tour to Britain and they have retained a powerful squad with depth in all areas for the Super 14 challenges ahead.

They also have a far more accommodating draw than last year when they travelled away for seven of their 13 round-robin games, taking on the top teams in their backyard and criss-crossing the Tasman Sea three times for games.

This year they are home for seven matches and they will face the big guns at King’s Park.

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