Sharks go for Gallic flair

2011-09-03 00:00

COACH John Plumtree is looking to a fresh approach to kick-start the second round of the Sharks’ Currie Cup campaign when they take on the Blue Bulls at Loftus this evening.

The third-placed Sharks have yet to play with any consistency and conviction yet they are still within touching distance — one bonus point victory — of the log-leading Lions after the first round of round robin play. The Sharks also have the advantage of playing teams one and two (the Lions and Western Province) at home in Durban in the second round.

But, for the moment, Plumtree is looking no further than Loftus, concerned that another defeat today will drop them well off the pace in the race to top the log and host a potential final late in October.

It is the Sharks’ lack of attacking continuity that is concerning their coach and prompted him to talk this week of changing tack, introducing French flair and playing the Bulls with his wings (and a prayer).

Whether Plumtree was speaking with forked tongue — why would he spell out his game plan in public? — remains to be seen, but he will certainly want his backs to start playing with more cohesion and fewer mistakes.

Plumtree has loaded his bench with forwards and his inclusion among the replacements of two specialist locks (Alistair Hargreaves and Anton Bresler) is a clear indication that he believes the Bulls second-row of Flip van der Merwe and Juandré Kruger could cause problems for the Sharks.

Bulls coach Pine Pienaar is also under massive pressure to keep his sixth-place team on the winning path if they are to reach the semi-finals.

“With the type of players the Sharks have, we cannot afford to give away possession,” he said yesterday. “They live on counter-attacking and we can’t give them any loose ball.”

Pienaar said that the Bulls had been fast asleep when they played the Sharks in the first round and lost 35-16 in Durban.

“We have woken up in winning our last three games, but we will still need to bring our absolute A-game to Loftus if we want to beat a very good Sharks side.”

The Sharks were beaten by the boot of Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies (seven penalties) last week and Plumtree said discipline had been a “real problem.”

 

The Bulls, like the Sharks, but in contrast to the Lions, have a fair spread of past Springboks in their ranks.

While the Lions have had the advantage of continuity with precious few Springbok call-ups, the Bulls are in a similar position to the Sharks, disrupted as senior players have come and gone.

The current Bulls have four Boks in the tight five and both Werner Kruger and Dean Greyling, who are propping up captain and hooker Gary Botha today, played in the Tri-Nations.

The Sharks appear stronger in the backrow (Jean Deysel, Keegan Daniel and Marcell Coetzee) and at halfback where internationals Charl McLeod and Frederic Michalak face former Lions scrumhalf Janno Vermaak and the young Louis Fouché.

Former Leopards junior flyhalf Fouché reputedly has a boot to rival Frans Steyn and is capable of kicking 60 metre penalties. The Sharks will have to be on their best behaviour.

The problem for the Sharks could be winning a steady stream of first-phase possession against a more experienced pack, but the Bulls do seem to bring out the best in them and they have won three of their last four Currie Cup games against the Pretoria team.

The Sharks are the title-holders but have yet to play like champions this season. A strong, 80 minute showing, similar to the one which produced a compelling 26-23 win and ended the Bulls’ Super Rugby reign back in June, is overdue.

And, if they can garnish it with some of Michalak’s French flair, then all the better.

 

TEAMS

Sharks: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Sibusiso Sithole, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Frederic Michalak, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Jean Deysel, 7 Marcell Coetzee, 6 Keegan Daniel (captain), 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Eugene van Staden, 2 Craig Burden, 1 Dale Chadwick

Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Wiehahn Herbst, 18 Anton Bresler, 19 Alistair Hargreaves, 20 Jacques Botes, 21 Conrad Hoffmann, 22 Adrian Jacobs

Blue Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Zane Kirchner, 12 Wynand Olivier, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Louis Fouch, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Dewald Potgieter, 6 Warwick Tecklenburg, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Gary Botha (captain), 1 Dean Greyling

Replacements: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Rossouw de Klerk, 18 Gerrit-Jan van Velze, 19 Arno Botha, 20 Dustin Jinka, 21 Francois Brummer, 22 Francois Venter.

Referee: Mark Lawrence. Kick-off: 5 pm.

Currie Cup games today (home team first)

Leopards vs Cheetahs 3 pm; Griquas vs WP 3 pm; Blue Bulls vs Sharks 5 pm.

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