Sharks selected on form, not fitness

2011-04-27 00:00

THE timing is perfect and after nine rounds of hectic action, Sharks coach John Plumtree suddenly has a full squad of players available for Super Rugby’s crunch game against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.

Plumtree confirmed yesterday that flank Jean Deysel, after missing nearly a year of Sharks’ rugby, lock Alistair Hargreaves and hooker Bismarck du Plessis are all over their injuries and will be in the squad to travel to Cape Town.

“It has not happened too often since I’ve been with the Sharks that we have a full quota of players but suddenly we do.” he said.

“Now I can select from players on form rather than fitness. And that’s a challenge for all the players.”

Plumtree said there was “competition and choices in some positions.”

“The pressure is on the players to go out there and perform. If they don’t, someone else will get the opportunity. The challenge for the players in a fit squad it is not about resting and rotating, but about them playing to the best of their abilities and making it hard for me to rest them.”

“Jean Deysel will come in this week and he’ll be looking forward to being involved again. I watched his progress in three Vodacom Cup games and he is getting back to where he was. He will get an opportunity on Saturday but probably off the bench.”

The Sharks coach said the physicality of the extended tournament is draining and particularly for those players in good form.

“It is a struggle for these players to keep lifting themselves week after week because of the knocks their bodies are taking.

“We’re seen that with Bismarck du Plessis (hooker) and Willem Alberts (flank) who have had to play a lot. By the time the bye comes, they’re really knackered. Having John Smit playing really well at hooker is good news for us.”

Plumtree said the Sharks had learnt from their first-round 6-16 loss to the Stormers in Durban early in April.

“You get more lessons out of a loss than a win. We’ve had a good look at what happened and there are things that have to change if we are to win.”

He said that the teams are well matched and “that makes the contest good to watch”. “Physicality, speed and tactical kicking will be very important.”

The Stormers, he added, would fancy themselves against the inconsistent Sharks lineout.

“We have some real challenges if we want to compete in that area. But if one part of your game goes pear-shaped, you’ve just got to make up for it somewhere else.”

He said the Stormers are a balanced and well-equipped outfit.

“They are right up there with the best teams in the competition. They have all the talent there, a tight five that have stepped up, their loose forwards are very explosive and workmanlike, and their backs are all world-class. Beating them at a packed Newlands is going to be a real challenge and that makes Saturday so exciting. That’s what our players are looking forward to.”

The Stormers could be without first-choice flyhalf Peter Grant, who is battling to shake a knee injury. Coach Allister Coetze said he will wait until Friday before making a decision on his fitness.

With replacement flyhalf Gary van Aswegen out for two months (knee ligament), the Stormers will start with third-choice Lionel Cronje in the pivot role if Grant is ruled out.

Veteran Bok centre Jean de Villiers, the struggling Bryan Habana and young lock Rynhardt Elstadt are reportedly ready to face the Sharks.

Saturday’s game at Newlands kicks off at 7.10 pm and the New Zealand-born referee Steve Walsh, now based in Australia, will handle the game.

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