Sharks’ muscle ready to go

2011-06-14 00:00

THE Sharks enter the 16th and final round of Super Rugby league action this weekend and could be close to full strength for their crunch game against the Bulls at Loftus.

Sharks team doctor Ewoudt van der Linde told The Witness yesterday that only second-choice scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman and wing Odwa Ndungane (knee) have definitely been ruled out for the Loftus games.

“Physically we are in surprisingly good shape,” he said.

Lock Steven Sykes, who left the field at half-time during the 30-30 draw, is the only new injury.

“He has a bruise, but it doesn’t look too bad and he’ll face a fitness test on Thursday.”

Van der Linde said he expects flank Willem Alberts to be ready for selection.

“He has been troubled by a sore shoulder for a couple of weeks and we decided to rest him against the Lions. But he and Jannie du Plessis [knee] should pass their tests on Thursday.”

Coach John Plumtree will also have powerful flank Jean Deysel available again after his two-week suspension.

Indeed, the Sharks coach may opt to start with both Deysel and Alberts in the back row against the big Bulls pack, with either Ryan Kankowski or Keegan Daniel at number eight.

Another certain to start is abrasive hooker Bismarck du Plessis, and John Smit could well captain the team from loosehead.

Remarkably, the Bulls will also be close to full strength with scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and lock Bakkies Botha set to return after injuries kept them out of the Stormers game at Newlands on Saturday.

Botha will win his 100th cap in front of the Loftus faithful, while Du Preez, who injured his knee four weeks ago against the Sharks, is now ready to return, although omitting man-of-the-match at Newlands, Francois Hougaard, will not be easy. Hougaard is expected to be switched back to the wing.

Botha’s return will probably see the formidable Danie Rossouw moved to the flank in place of Dewald Potgieter.

With the Bulls and Sharks, fifth and sixth, level on log points, and the Waratahs just a point behind — and likely to win their final league game against the Brumbies in Sydney — the Loftus clash seems certain to decide which South African team will join the Stormers in the top six play-offs.

The tie-breaker for teams equal on points will be:

• Most wins from all matches

• Highest aggregate points difference

• Most tries from all matches

• Highest aggregate difference in tries for and against from all matches

The three Super Rugby Conference winners (SA, NZ and Australia) and three “wild card” qualifiers will advance to the play-offs.

The teams ranked first and second will have a bye in the first round of the finals series (play-offs), while the teams ending in places third to sixth will play-off in qualifiers (3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5).

The winners of the qualifiers will advance to the semi-finals. In the semi-finals, the team ranked first will face the lowest-ranked team to advance from the qualifiers, while the team ranked second will face the highest ranked team to advance.

On the current log the Reds and Stormers would advance direct to home semi-finals and would have a weekend bye over the weekend June 24/25.

The Crusaders would host the Sharks (the venue could be anywhere) with the Blues at home to the Bulls.

Of course, the Waratahs, at home to the Brumbies this weekend, are likely to advance to the top six with either the Bulls or Sharks dropping out of the top six.

Top seven placings (after 15 rounds):

Reds 62

Stormers 58

Crusaders 57

Blues 56

Bulls 53

Sharks 53

 

Leading points scorers

203 - Morne Steyn (Bulls)

196 - Quade Cooper (Reds)

182 - Patrick Lambie (Sharks)

 

Weekend’s final round (home team first, SA times):

Friday:

Blues v Highlanders 9.35 am

Rebels v Force 11.40 am

Saturday

Chiefs v Reds 7.30 am

Crusaders v Hurricanes 9.35 am

Waratahs v Brumbies 11.40 am

Bulls v Sharks 3 pm

Cheetahs v Stormers 5.10 pm

Bye: Lions

 

BUTCH JAMES’S Sanzar judicial hearing will take place at noon tomorrow. The hearing, due to take place yesterday, was rescheduled at the request of James. The Lions flyhalf was cited for a dangerous tackle on Sharks flank Keegan Daniel on Saturday. He received a yellow card for the offence.

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