Sharks may unleash ‘nicely simmering’ Alberts against Cheetahs

2012-05-15 00:00

HE might be out of sight, but he is not out of John Plumtree’s mind, and Springbok flank Willem Alberts still has a major role to play for the Sharks in this year’s Super Rugby competition.

Alberts, who missed the opening months of the season following shoulder surgery, last played for the Sharks against the Chiefs in April. He was replaced at half time in that game and has since missed the outings against the Highlanders and Force.

Plumtree said the powerful Alberts was fit and he had been dropped with Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes and Marcell Coetzee being the starting loose forwards and Springboks Jean Deysel and Ryan Kankowski playing off the bench.

But Plumtree suggested after the Force win that Alberts, one of the Sharks’ most influential and physical players when fit and in form, would soon be back. “Willem is simmering away nicely,” Plumtree said with a smile when asked about Alberts’ future prospects.

With a position in the Springbok team also up for grabs, it will come as no surprise if Plumtree unleashes Alberts for the Sharks’ series of local derby games over the next three weeks, against the Cheetahs, Stormers and Lions.

“I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to have these senior players back and competing for places. You could see it at training in the build-up to the Force game when we had two full packs of forwards up against each other.

“Everyone benefits and it enables me to freshen up the team when necessary while also giving us a talented bench. How fortunate we were to be able to use players like Freddie Michalak, Jean Deysel, Ryan Kankowski and Craig Burden in the second half on Saturday.”

Plumtree said this depth would be tested over the final weeks of Super Rugby. “The ante really goes up for these games with more media coverage, bigger crowds and the players desperate to do well.”

Plumtree said the Sharks had very few injury concerns. He said he hoped that Pat Lambie, who took a knock to the head in the first half against the Force, would train today.

“The worst off is Louis Ludik who has a bruised bicep, but we are hoping that he will be better later in the week. Otherwise everyone else is good to go.”

He said the Sharks were not accurate in dealing with the kick-offs on Saturday, and would work on that area of their game, while they were also “down on territory, which is a bit of a worry for us.”

“We had to make a lot of tackles, but we were really happy with that and we created a lot of opportunities through our defence.”

He said he was delighted that the Sharks had won by producing quality rugby.“Winning by playing better [more entertaining] rugby is obviously a lot better than playing ugly rugby. But now the physicality goes up with the Cheetahs this weekend. They love these derby games. The intensity is going to be right up there in Bloemfontein and we have to make sure we’re right up for it.”

He said that being in the top six for the play-offs brought new pressures.

“Now it’s about controlling our own destiny as the tournament reaches the business end. We have to make sure when we get an opportunity, we take it. The Cheetahs are tough, and it’s a home game for them, so we know what’s coming. It’s just about making sure we meet the challenge head-on,” said Plumtree. The game kicks off at 5.05 pm on Saturday.

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