Accuracy key in battle of the two Johns

2009-03-19 00:00

JOHN Plumtree and John Mitchell have much in common — and not just a shared first name.

They are both from New Zealand, they have coached together at international level and this weekend they are both under pressure to produce a win — the Sharks because of their setback against the Reds last week and Western Force because they are playing at home.

The two have an intimate knowledge of the other’s coaching philosophy and, while both know what to expect from the other, tomorrow’s match is probably going to come down to accuracy.

The Sharks feel they let themselves down in their first-time tackling against the Reds and believe if they get that right, they will set themselves up to be highly competitive.

“We’ve got a lot of respect for them,” Plumtree said yesterday. “They have the best tackle percentage of the competition, they are a very well-organised and structured side, they have probably the best 10 [flyhalf] in world rugby at the moment in Matt Giteau, and they have a number of good backline players who can hurt you. So to win, we are going to have to really lift our standards from the Reds’ game, and even improve on where we were in New Zealand.”

Plumtree highlighted the importanceof the Sharks’ tackling.

“Defensively we are going to have to be a lot better. These guys are capable of creating opportunities and we are going to have to get our first line of defence right.”

The injury to Ruan Pienaar has necessitated the first change among the backs, and in the midfield Francois Steyn shifts from centre to flyhalf where he has a crucial role to play at pivot.

“He hasn’t started at flyhalf this season, but I hope we’ll give him some good quick ball and look after him,” said Plumtree.

Force coach Mitchell has made six changes to the team that drew with the Crusaders last weekend. Both wings, Cameron Shepherd and Nick Cummins, are injured, although tighthead prop Ben Castle was cleared to start. Former Wallaby Scott Staniforth returns from injury to the wing.

The Force are in ninth position with 12 log points, five behind the third-placed Sharks who have 17.

The match kicks off at12.45 pm (SA time) tomorrow.

Western Force: 15. James OíConnor, 14. Scott Staniforth, 13. Ryan Cross, 12. Junior Pelesasa, 11. Drew Mitchell, 10. Matt Giteau, 9. Josh Valentine, 8. Tamaiti Horua, 7. David Pocock, 6. Matt Hodgson, 5. Nathan Sharpe (capt), 4. Tom Hockings, 3. Ben Castle, 2. Tai McIsaac, 1. Pek Cowan. Reserves: 16. Luke Holmes, 17. AJ Whalley, 18. David Pusey, 19. Richard Stanford, 20. Chris O’Young, 21. Josh Tatupu, 22. Haig Sare.

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