Sharks: play john Smit at hooker, instructs De Villiers. Sure, just give me a call, says Plumtree

2011-04-12 00:00

SPRINGBOK coach Peter de Villiers has still not contacted John Plumtree to instruct him to select John Smit at hooker in his Sharks’ starting line-up.

A fortnight ago De Villiers said that he was unhappy that Smit was not being used at hooker by the Sharks and said he would be contacting coach John Plumtree “within the next week or two”.

“I must still meet with Sharks coach John Plumtree. I want Smit to play hooker,” said De Villiers who said he was struggling to judge his Springbok captain’s form because he was playing out of position at prop rather than hooker.

Plumtree, with a smiling Smit sitting next to him after the Sharks had beaten the Lions, was asked when he would be switching his captain from prop to hooker.

“Peter [De Villiers] hasn’t called me yet, but as soon as he phones I’ll put John in at hooker,” a sarcastic Plumtree responded.

The Sharks are unhappy that De Villiers aired his selection concerns at a media briefing late in March and after there had been an understanding that any problems between coach and franchise would be discussed privately.

With Bismarck du Plessis the former hooker in Super Rugby, Plumtree has every reason to keep selecting him. The Sharks coach has been using Smit on the loosehead in recent weeks and the Boks captain was certainly more involved against the Lions, scrumming well, taking the ball up strongly on occasions and making a series of hefty tackles, one of which caused the turnover that resulted in Willem Albert’s try.

Smit is certain to be used at hooker during the long tournament, but his chance will come as part of Plumtree’s rotation policy rather than when De Villiers chooses to make a telephone call.

The increase in Smit’s workrate was just one of a number of encouraging individual features of the Sharks’ win over the Lions.

Plumtree was taken by the power of JP Pietersen down the left wing where he handled twice in fashioning Alberts’ try and then handed off Jaco Taute on the way to scoring his own.

“JP was great and his power gives us momentum when he is used close to the forwards, and this performance has been coming for a couple of weeks since his injury. He is enjoying his rugby and we are all hoping he now stays fit,” said Plumtree.

Centre Adi Jacobs — on for Meyer Bosman after half-an-hour — was another to grab his chances, sniping away in midfield and probably surprising even himself in making one of the hardest tackles of the night when clattering into the luckless Taute.

“I reckon that is the best Adi has played in two seasons. He has been told what he needs to do to re-launch his career and challenge for the Springbok World Cup squad and he has reacted positively,” said Plumtree.

Flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter struggled with his goal-kicking and missed four attempts, but he also made an impact, kicking well out of hand, varying his game and testing the Lions’ defences with his direct, straight running.

Pat Lambie (broken finger) should be back at flyhalf to face the Hurricanes in Durban on April 23 after this weekend’s bye, but Plumtree will be pleased that Potgieter has had time to settle with three successive starts for the Sharks.

Bearded lock Ross Skeate also made an immediate impression, and the strong weekend form of Steven Sykes, coupled with the return within the next fortnight of the injured Alistair Hargreaves, suggests that the Sharks have all the necessary cover in the tight five.

The Sharks did have problems at the breakdown, and they were heavily penalised by Jonathan Kaplan, while they were often rushed and inaccurate on attack, but individually and collectively they are now in a far happier place than they were just a week ago.

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