Surprise selections show Plumtree to bank on strong bench for second half

2011-04-29 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree has made a number of surprise selections, but is clearly looking to a formidable bench to play a decisive second-half role in tomorrow night’s Super Rugby derby against the Stormers in Cape Town.

Plumtree has made three changes to his starting line-up, replacing wing Lwazi Mvovo with Odwa Ndungane, bringing back Keegan Daniel on the flank for Jacques Botes and returning Bok tighthead Jannie du Plessis to the front-row in place of Eugene van Staden.

But it is the inclusion of Bismarck du Plessis and lock Alistair Hargreaves among the replacements rather than the starting line-up that is perhaps most surprising. Still, they join the powerful Jean Deysel, Adi Jacobs, Van Staden and Mvovo to form a potent bench.

Certainly the Stormers will be delighted that they do not have to contend with Bismarck du Plessis’s physicality from the off, though he will be a handful when he does take the field in the second half.

It was expected that Hargreaves, a lineout specialist, would also start against the tall Andries Bekker, but the Sharks lock has been sidelined for four weeks and Plumtree has retained Ross Skeate, who will be up against his former Province team-mates on his old home ground.

The omission of the exciting Mvovo, who scored two tries against the Hurricanes and saved another with a desperate corner-flag tackle, was not expected, but perhaps Ndungane’s high workrate and his safety under the high ball counted in his favour.

Plumtree said this week he is looking to his replacements to “add impact, lift the intensity of the game and make the difference”, and he seems to have the bench to do just that.

Deysel, after nearly a year out of the limelight, takes over from Botes among the substitutes. Botes, who turned his ankle against the Hurricanes, was Plumtree’s only minor injury concern, but he would probably have been omitted anyway as the Sharks coach was keen to involve the powerful Deysel at Newlands.

The return of Bismarck du Plessis and Hargreaves from injury has resulted in hooker Craig Burden and lock Gerhard Moster returning to the Sharks XV Vodacom XV for tomorrow’s quarter-final against Western Province at Newlands.

Stormers and Bok flank Francois Louw, who has signed a two-year deal to join Bath as Luke Watson’s replacement at the end of the year, said the weekend bye last week had helped the Cape Town franchise.

Louw, who joins Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen in the back row, said he feels “refreshed and recovered”.

“Any week off is always great,” he told News24. “We know the Sharks will come at us full-blast and try to outmuscle us. But it is up to us to stand up and overpower them.”

Sharks team: 15 Louis Ludik, 14 Odwa Ndungane, 13 Stefan Terblanche, 12 Meyer Bosman, 11 JP Pietersen, 10 Pat Lambie, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Keegan Daniel, 5 Ross Skeate, 4 Steven Sykes, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 John Smit (c), 1 Beast Mtawarira.

Replacements: 16 Bismarck du Plessis, 17 Eugene van Staden, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Jean Deysel, 20 Conrad Hoffmann, 21 Adi Jacobs, 22 Lwazi Mvovo.

Kick-off: 7.10 pm.

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