Sharks frontline worries ahead of Griquas game

2009-10-07 00:00

THE Sharks will have a full-strength backline available for Saturday’s final round Currie Cup match against Griquas in Kimberley but there remain injury concerns among the forwards.

Assistant coach Grant Bashford said yesterday that centre Riaan Swanepoel, who has been sidelined for the past month with a shoulder injury, had run freely at practice this week and would be available for selection.

But a number of forwards, including Springbok captain and prop John Smit (neck), flank Jean Deysel (leg) and number eight Ruyan Kankowski, following a bump to the knee against the Lions at the weekend, face fitness tests this week.

Bashford said the game plan on Saturday would depend on the personnel selected.

“The approach will be a horses for courses one but we won’t make wholesale changes. This side has the ability to adjust and play a different style.’

The Sharks coach said that the availability of the Springboks and injuries to players like Deysel and Swanepoel had influenced the way the Sharks had played.

“Last year we got the Springboks back earlier so we had longer to adjust. This season a number of our national players have been outside the Test squad and on the bench and are a bit underdone.

“Even a chap like JP Pietersen, who has come off a month’s injury, is short of rugby so it’s just a matter of time for us and getting the confidence back.

“But we know we have the team that can hurt anybody if we play to our potential.”

Bashford said that the players had been disappointed at failing to pick up a bonus point against the Lions which would have kept them top of the log.

“It felt like a loss but, if we are being positive, there are many sides who would be delighted to go into round 14 of the competition with a home semi-final already confirmed. So it is not all gloom and doom.”

Bashford said the Western Province had the advantage on Saturday of playing the Lions after the Sharks-Griquas game and they would know how many points they needed to finish top of the log to secure a possible home final.

“We will be looking for a win against Griquas and we hope with a bonus point. That may put fresh pressure on WP and the Lions, with their physical pack, showed what they can do against us. If they can keep their act together against WP on Saturday, we could still be in for an exciting finish to the pool stages.”

Bashford said that Griquas had changed their approach this season and shown an ability to counter-attack.

“They need two points and will be desperate but they have also leaked over 100 points in their last two games and that will be a concern for them.

“But it will be another tough day in Kimberley. Griquas will be pumped … and so will we.”

The match kicks off at 3.00 pm on Saturday and Mark Lawrence will handle the game.

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