Super Rugby: Returning players give Sharks extra depth up frontMore options for Plumtree

2011-04-28 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree could make as many as five changes to his forward pack for Saturday night’s Super Rugby derby against the Stormers in Cape Town when he names his team today.

In Cape Town, meanwhile, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee announced his team yesterday and made three changes with the possibility of a fourth if flyhalf Peter Grant fails a late fitness test.

Coetzee yesterday named Lionel Cronje as the stand-by flyhalf and included out-of-touch but fit again Bryan Habana on the wing with Gio Aplon shifting to the right in place of young Danie Poolman. Jean de Villiers comes back at inside-centre for Juan de Jongh.

The only change up front is at lock where Rynhardt Elstadt returns from injury in place of De Kock Steenkamp.

“We are giving Peter Grant as much chance as possible to be fit, so we will only make a decision on Friday,” said Coetzee.

“Peter has a muscle injury in his knee and it will depend if he gets full range of movement back. He will not play unless he is 100% fit.”

The number of options open to Plumtree is an indication of the depth available up front, which has been helped by the return from injury of hooker Bismarck du Plessis, lock Alistair Hargreaves and flank Jean Deysel who will be on the bench on Saturday.

John Smit, back at hooker against the Hurricanes at the weekend, flourished in a familiar role as he successfully silenced his critics but Plumtree is expected to opt for the physicality and high workrate of Bismarck du Plessis against the Stormers.

This could result in captain Smit being switched to loosehead prop, though this would be hard on Beast Mtawarira who produced a powerful weekend display against the Hurricanes.

Two others who seem certain to return are competitive flank Keegan Daniel, who had an excellent final quarter against the Hurricanes after coming off the bench, and tighthead Jannie du Plessis. The Bok prop played off the bench in the last two games with Eugene van Staden starting at tighthead but, eager and refreshed, Du Plessis is likely to join his brother and Smit in a revamped front-row.

Hargreaves, over his shoulder problem, is also back and the Sharks need all the help they can get against the towering Andries Bekker and the strong Stormers lineout.

Plumtree has fewer options behind the scrum and changes are unlikely but the return of Adi Jacobs in the midfield cannot be far away.

The Sharks coach said he was delighted at the sudden depth at forward.

“I thought Ross Skeate [lock] produced a positive performance and Gerhard Mostert hasn’t let us down either. Alistair Hargreaves has had some experience at this level now and Steven Sykes is playing good rugby so I can choose from four good locks.

“It is the same with the front-row. Eugene van Staden has stepped up and he’s very comfortable at this level. Beast [Mtawarira] was impressive on the weekend, John [Smit] played really well at hooker and little more can be said about Bismarck.

“Jannie [du Plessis] has had a couple of starts off bench and he’s pretty keen to get going.”

This depth, Plumtree added, adds to the strength of the replacement bench.

Flyhalf Pat Lambie’s return from injury was encouraging, said Plumtree.

“We are obviously hoping he will kick a lot better at goal this weekend but I thought the rest of his game against the Hurricanes was good. He controlled the game well and his tackling was very good.”

• A recurring calf injury yesterday forced New Zealander Steve Walsh to withdraw from the Newlands game.

South African Jaco Peyper, recently promoted to the Sanzar Merit Panel, will now referee the conference top-of-the-table clash.

Stormers team:

Conrad Jantjes, Gio Aplon, Jaque Fourie, Jean de Villiers, Byran Habana, Lionel Cronje/ Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger (captain), Andries Bekker, Rynhardt Elstadt, CJ van der Linde, Deon Fourie, Wicus Blaauw.

Replacements: Ethienne Reynecke, Brok Harris, De Kock Steenkamp, Nick Koster, Ricky Januarie, Kurt Coleman, Juan de Jongh

This weekend’s fixtures (home team first, SA times):

Friday:

Highlanders vs Blues, 09:35

Saturday:

Hurricanes vs Reds, 09:35

Waratahs vs Rebels, 11:40

Force vs Crusaders, 14:05

Cheetahs vs Brumbies, 15:00

Bulls vs Chiefs, 17:05

Stormers vs Sharks, 19:10.

Bye: Lions.

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