Sharks’ walking wounded back

2009-04-15 00:00

SHARKS head coach John Plumtree is hoping that most of his walking wounded will be back to play a role in Saturday’s big game against the Super 14 champions, the Crusaders, at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

Plumtree said that Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira and even Jean Deysel, JP Pietersen and Waylon Murray could feature in Saturday’s game.

Mtawarira and Du Plessis (ribs) were late withdrawals from the Sharks side, which went down heavily to the Cheetahs at the weekend. Pietersen (lower calf strain) has been out for three weeks, powerful loose forward Deysel (knee ligaments) has not played since the third round, while Murray has yet to see action this Super 14 season.

“The Beast is over his ‘flu, Du Plessis has resumed training, Jean Deysel has trained well without reaction and he could feature, and Waylon Murray is back running after his long break with a knee injury. We will make a decision on him [tomorrow],” said Plumtree.

He added that Pietersen had done some light running and he was doubtful “though we’re optimistic”.

The one player who definitely will not be involved is flyhalf Ruan Pienaar (knee ligament strain) who should return after next weekend’s bye, added the Sharks coach.

Plumtree said the players had reviewed their weekend defeat “and it was a pretty hard day with everyone hurting”.

“Now it is a case of the players picking themselves up,” he said.

Plumtree said that the Cheetahs’s loss was similar to the defeat against the Reds.

“We needed to cash in on early opportunities against the Cheetahs, but we didn’t. In contrast, they did and that lifted their heads and we had no answer. They also put us under pressure at lineouts, just as the Reds did, and we are just not responding positively when we are under stress.

“We turned over possession on 15 occasions and that just stopped us building any pressure.”

Plumtree said it was difficult to decide whether the Sharks had been outplayed or whether their mental approach had been the problem, whether it was their poor attitude or a lack of skill that had led to the defeat.

“If there is an attitude problem, performance will suffer. Collectively, it wasn’t a good effort, and so, yes, attitude could have been the case. But you never know,” he said.

Plumtree said the team had shown they can win and it was no time to panic.

“Pressure has come with injury to seven players and we need them back at this crucial time of the season. Some of the other players have been overplayed. This is a fact and not an excuse, but I hope people will back off and give the players some breathing space.”

The Sharks coach pointed out that the weekend game would be no easier. “We are up against a champion side and historically their game improves as the season goes on.

“We have to lift our game and produce a passionate performance at home,” he said.

Plumtree said the return of Richie McCaw was a massive boost for the Crusaders. “He is so influential and this is very important for them.

“They have also been hit by injuries, but they will enjoy the challenge of playing us in front of our home crowd on a good pitch.

“They are a side that never go away, no matter how well you play, even if you’re dominating, they will hang in.”

Plumtree said the Crusaders had instilled a culture of unselfishness over the years — “and that is what we are trying to introduce here”.

The Sharks, said Plumtree, were excited about the weekend game.

“We’ve been criticised for not getting up for what are perceived to be the smaller sides, but this is one of the bigger games and we have certainly been looking forward to playing them.”

The match kicks off at 5.05 pm on Saturday.

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