Sharks have energy and depth for Tri-Series

2011-01-26 00:00

WHILE the Lions will be missing a host of their players for the pre-season triangular tournament starting in Cape Town on Friday, the Sharks are expecting to travel with close to a full-strength squad. The Lions face the Stormers in the opening friendly on Friday night and the Sharks on Tuesday.

The series comes to a climax on February 5 with the Sharks up against the Stormers in a televised game. This Saturday game kicks off at 5 pm and the Currie Cup final — with the Sharks beating Western Province 30-10 — will still be fresh in the memory.

Lions’ coach, John Mitchell, is leaving a number of his high-profile players at home to allow them to work on their conditioning ahead of the Super Rugby competition, which starts on the weekend of February 18 and 19. Among those missing are chunky Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies and centre Doppies la Grange. Former Springbok André Pretorius, who played briefly for the Sharks in the Currie Cup last year, is expected to partner Rory Kockott, another ex-Shark, at halfback in the Tri-Series tournament. The 19-year-old Jaco Taute, a fullback, is expected to be used at inside centre. Former Bulls hooker Bandise Maku and wing Lionel Mapoe, who spent last year training with the Sharks, are set to debut for the Lions against the Stormers.

Other Lions players staying in Johannesburg are former Sharks forwards Michael Rhodes and Pat Cilliers, New Zealand fullback James Kamana and lock David de Villiers (lock).

Flyhalf Peter Grant and centre Jaque Fourie will be missing from the Stormers’ line-up.

Sharks assistant coach Hugh Reece-Edwards said the squad look in excellent shape following their six-day training camp at the Bafokeng Sports Campus in Phokeng. “We are in better shape than we were this time last year. Last year when we went to Cape Town for the Tri-Series we didn’t even have a flyhalf. And the camp was excellent.”

Reece-Edwards said the Sharks had picked up the usual niggly injuries that came with the days of hard training. “But by next week they should all be gone. Only Jean Deysel (following surgery) is definitely out and we’ll use the same 28 players that went to Phokeng in Cape Town.” All the players, he said, would be given a run. He wants “to work on a few combinations in Cape Town and try out some things, but it is looking good”. “We’ll only really know how good when we see them in a match situation, but there is energy and depth in the squad.”

Reece-Edwards said he is impressed with the Sharks’ new signings, Springbok centre Meyer Bosman, flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter and former WP scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman. “They have slotted in extremely well and have certainly had a positive impact.”

Sharks head coach John Plumtree was in Johannesburg yesterday for a meeting with Peter de Villiers. The Springbok coach met the Super 15 coaches and their CEOs to discuss the season ahead and how the leading players will be managed in a World Cup year. Plumtree said the Sharks had learnt valuable lessons in the past and are better prepared for this year’s Super Rugby. “We know that at any stage of this competition it can go pear-shaped on you.”

Plumtree said that the experience in the squad is invaluable. “Most of the players are going to be involved in their sixth or seventh Super Rugby campaign, some in their fourth or third, but they’ve all experienced it so I guess we are a wiser group now.” He said his selections for their Tri-Series matches would not necessarily be an indication of what the team would look like for the Super Rugby opener. “There are some individuals that we’ll look at in terms of their form, but every player will get out there (in Cape Town) looking to impress. I don’t think you’ll be able to read too much into the selections of the team. Certainly I’ve got a side in mind for the opening game (against the Cheetahs on February 19) and whether that changes after the Newlands friendlies will be interesting.”

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