Sharks wary of more injuries

2013-02-15 00:00

COACH John Plumtree finds himself between a rock and a hard place as his strongest available Sharks team take on the Pumas in their final warm-up game ahead of the Super Rugby competition.

The Sharks open their marathon campaign against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein next Saturday and Plumtree is looking for a convincing and cohesive dress rehearsal from his charges.

A week ago the Leopards leaked 11 tries as the Sharks won 71-8 at Woodburn Stadium. In the eyes of the Sharks’ coaching staff it was little more than a canned hunt and far more is expected from the Pumas on their home turf in Nelspruit.

“They have an experienced coach in Jimmy Stonehouse and they’ll come out firing, “ said Plumtree. “We should get a physical, competitive hit-out, which is what we want before the Cheetahs game.”

But at the same time, Plumtree will be holding his breath that his carefully laid plans are not derailed by more injuries.

“We need the game to be a bit harder and, I think, we’ll get that against the Pumas,” said backline coach Hugh Reece-Edwards. “But we are also certainly going into this game praying that there are no more injuries.”

Half-a-dozen of the Sharks’ best — Bismarck du Plessis, Keegan Daniel, Tim Whitehead, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee and Butch James — are already on the sidelines. At present the depth in the squad allows for quality cover, but a couple more injures tonight will certainly cause a flutter.

While the Sharks had little difficulty coping with the Leopards, a number of problem areas remain and Plumtree will be looking for an improvement in the lineout work, in coping with kick-offs and in finishing more accurately.

Assistant coach Grant Bashford said the players needed to be more accurate on attack.

“We had 18 turnovers against the Leopards and should have been more clinical in scoring another four or five tries. We also made mistakes in our own 22 so we need to sharpen up before we get to the Cheetahs’ game.”

The injuries were a major concern.

“We certainly feel that one of our strengths for our campaign this year is our depth. But these injuries mean we are going to be tested earlier, rather than later.”

He is also expecting a tough night against the Pumas.

While the Leopards were largely an outfit of no-name- brand players, there are familiar names in the Pumas line-up, particularly in a backline that features former Bulls centre Stefan Watermeyer, former Sharks wing Rosko Specman, Dewald Pretorius and Tiaan Marx.

Plumtree and the Sharks will have the tougher test they want, but that will come with the risk of injury, and the post-match medical report tonight will be as important as the final scoreline.

TEAMS

Pumas:

15 Carl Bezuidenhout, 14 Deon Scholtz, 13 Stefan Watermeyer, 12 Dewald Pretorius, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Tiaan Marx, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Doppies le Roux, 7 RW Kember, 6 Uzair Cassiem, 5 Eduan van der Walt, 4 Rudi Mathee, 3 Ivann Espag, 2 Jacques Momberg, 1 Vincent Koch. Replacements: 16. Frank Hearne, 17. Drew van Coller, 18, De Jay Terblanche, 19. Corné Fourie, 20. Boela Serfontein, 21. Yaya Hartzenberg, 22. Reynier van Rooyen, 23. Coenie van Wyk, 24. Danwel Demas.

Sharks:

15. Louis Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Paul Jordaan, 12. Frans Steyn (captain), 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Cobus Reinach 8. Tera Mtembu, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Franco van der Merwe 4. Anton Bresler, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Craig Burden,. 1. Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper 17. Allan Dell 18. Wiehahn Herbst 19. Pieter-Steph du Toit 20. Francois Kleinhans 21. Charl McLeod 22. Meyer Bosman 23. Odwa Ndungane 24. Riaan Viljoen.

Kick-off: 7 pm

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