Sharks force the Lions’ hand

2010-01-23 00:00

THE Sharks have thumbed their noses at the Lions and SA Rugby by including the massive number eight Willem Alberts in their 28-man travelling squad for the two pre-season friendlies in Cape Town.

Head coach John Plumtree yesterday defied both SA Rugby and the Lions by including Alberts in a close to full-strength squad for the Tri-Series friendlies against the Western Force on Tuesday and the Stormers next Friday.

The Sharks signed Alberts and Louis Ludik, who is currently injured, last November – and they have since beeen paying their salaries – but the Lions have refused to provide them with clearance certificates. While centre Jaque Fourie, on a similar contract with the Lions, was released after a SA Rugby arbitration hearing in November, the national body has refused to become involved in the Sharks’ dispute.

Now the Sharks, fed up with the dithering, have forced SA Rugby’s hand by selecting Alberts.

Both Sharks CEO Brian van Zyl and commercial manager Rudolf Straeuli insisted that Alberts, who returns from honeymoon this weekend, would be chosen for the pre-season friendlies.

“We would like to resolve the matter. I think it’s rather a matter of SA Rugby having to revisit their regulations. It’s disappointing that they do not want to get involved,” Van Zyl said.

Van Zyl said that the arbitration in favour of Bok centre Fourie way back in November made it clear that Alberts and Ludik were free agents.

“The documentation is there for all to see,” he said.

The players’ lawyer, Frikkie Erasmus, has also said that SA Rugby could not prevent Alberts and Ludik from playing because the Super 14 fell under Sanzar. He pointed out that players were regularly drafted from one franchise to another during the Super 14 without receiving clearances.

By selecting Alberts for next week’s friendlies, the Sharks have now forced the Lions to lodge a complaint and SA Rugby will now have to become involved and resolve the dispute.

Plumtree’s squad, led by South African captain John Smit, contains 14 Springboks while two others, jack-of-all-trades Ruan Pienaar and prop Deon Carstens, are recovering from minor surgery and should be ready for the Super 14. Ludik, who could play fullback, wing or outside centre, is a couple of weeks away from full fitness.

Flyhalf Steve Meyer, signed from French club Perpignan this week as a replacement for injured Argentinian Juan Hernandez, arrives back in Durban on Tuesday and he could still feature in the game against the Stormers next Friday.

New faces included in the Sharks squad are young fullback Patrick Lambie, who will probably be given a run at flyhalf, and the two 120-kg former Lions forwards, lock Gerhard Mostert and Alberts.

The Sharks leave for Cape Town tomorrow.

Plumtree said yesterday that the players need hard contact in the two games before the Super 14 opener against the Chiefs in Durban on February 13.

“But they also need to adapt quickly to the new interpretation of the laws. The refs are looking to tighten up at the breakdown where the tackler must now not interfere while they will be more strict on those players who are off-side when chasing kicks. They are also looking to cut back on the number of set pieces and will penalise players rather than constantly re-setting scrums.”

The first of the Tri-Series friendlies takes place at Newlands this evening with the Stormers meeting the Force.

SHARKS SQUAD

Backs: Monty Dumond, Adrian Jacobs, Rory Kockott, Patrick Lambie, Charl McLeod, Waylon Murray, Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Andries Strauss, Riaan Swanepoel, Stefan Terblanche and Luzuko Vulindlu.

Forwards: Willem Alberts, Jacques Botes, Craig Burden, Patric Cilliers, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Bismarck du Plessis, Jannie du Plessis, Alistair Hargreaves, Ryan Kankowski, Gerhard Mostert, Tendai Mtawarira, Johann Muller, John Smit (captain) and Steven Sykes.

FIXTURES

Today: 5pm Stormers vs Western Force

Tuesday: 7pm Sharks vs Western Force

Friday: 7pm Stormers vs Sharks

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