Sharks’ physical edge blunted

2011-06-10 00:00

THE Sharks, desperately seeking victory at Ellis Park tomorrow, will take on the fiery Lions pack without their two most physical forwards in Willem Alberts and Bismarck du Plessis.

Alberts, their burly backrower who has been nursing a shoulder injury, yesterday failed a fitness test while Du Plessis will play off the bench with John Smit taking over as hooker.

And with Jean Deysel, a flank in the Alberts’ mould, on his final weekend of suspension and tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis (knee ligament strain) also failing to gain medical clearance, the physical edge to the Sharks’ pack has been blunted.

Jacques Botes joins Keegan Daniel and Ryan Kankowski in a light but mobile backrow while Smit’s switch to hooker allows Beast Mtawarira to return at loosehead.

Sharks assistant coach Grant Bashford told The Witness yesterday that it had been decided not to risk Alberts and Jannie du Plessis.

“They’ll both be ready next weekend [the Sharks play the Bulls at Loftus], Jean Deysel will be back and Odwa Ndungane [wing] should also be fit. Swapping Bismarck [Du Plessis] and John Smit was just a rotational switch.”

Bismarck du Plessis has started 12 of the Sharks’ 13 games and the Sharks will certainly need him to be fresh and firing at Loftus next Saturday.

With Alberts sidelined, 20-year-old Marcell Coetzee returns to the bench side and will play off the bench.

Plumtree has made no changes to the backline which showed improved form, as a unit, against the Cheetahs last Saturday.

The Lions, in contrast, have stiffened their defences by switching former Shark Butch James from inside-centre to flyhalf and have dropped young Elton Jantjies to the bench. However, coach John Mitchell said that the change was not for tactical reasons but because Jantjies was being punished for breaking team protocol.

Mitchell said that Jantjies had been late for a team appointment on tour.

“Elton broke team protocol while we were away so he has to face the consequences,” Mitchell told reporters. “The leadership group made a decision about that, and that’s the reason why Butch goes to 10.”

Jantjies showed improved form on the Lions’ Australasian tour, missing only one kick in 16 at goal, but James’ selection at flyhalf will bring stability and organisation to the backline defences.

Mitchell has included Alwyn Hollenbach at inside-centre. Flank Cobus Grobbelaar, who missed last week’s match against the Hurricanes due to a death in his family, is bracketed with Jaco Kriel while lock Franco van der Merwe, nursing an eye injury, faces a late fitness test and David de Villiers is on stand-by.

Michael Bondesio is preferred to former Sharks scrumhalf Rory Kockott on the bench.

The Lions return home this week from a successful tour and with their confidence boosted.

“They had an excellent tour,” said Plumtree “Mitch [John Mitchell] said that they wanted to win one game in Australia and one in New Zealand and they did that, so they have found some belief.

“This is their last game this weekend [they have a bye next weekend] so they will want to finish on a high and playing the Sharks will give them plenty of motivation.”

Teams:

Sharks — 15. Louis Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Stefan Terblanche, 12. Meyer Bosman, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Keegan Daniel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Gerhard Mostert, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Eugene van Staden, 2. John Smit (c), 1. Tendai Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16. Bismarck du Plessis, 17. Wiehahn Herbst, 18. Alistair Hargreaves, 19. Marcell Coetzee, 20. Frederic Michalak, 21. Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22. Adrian Jacobs

Lions – 15 Jaco Taute, 14 Dylan Des Fountain, 13 Doppies la Grange (c), 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Deon van Rensburg, 10 Butch James, 9 Jano Vermaak, 8 Josh Strauss, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Cobus Grobbelaar/Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe/David de Villiers, 4 Wikus van Heerden, 3 Patric Cilliers, 2 Bandise Maku, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg.

Replacements: 16 Edgar Marutlulle, 17 Jacobie Adriaanse, 18 David de Villiers/David Bulbring, 19 Warren Whiteley, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Elton Jantjies, 22 Michael Killian.

Referee: Marius Jonker (RSA). Kick-off: 4.05 pm.

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