Another bruising clash for Sharks

2013-03-05 00:00

THE Sharks, battered and sore after bumping into the Stormers at the weekend, face another bruising Super Rugby challenge in Port Elizabeth on Saturday night when they take on the energetic, excited Southern Kings at the Nelson Mandela Stadium.

Both Stormers coach Allister Coetzee and Sharks coach John Plumtree said they had no serious injuries to report after Saturday’s derby. And, after a long, bruising night of thumping head-on collisions, that was remarkable.

The Kings surprised friend and foe by winning their first-round match against the Force and they have now doubled their tally of points to eight after their weekend bye.

They will be fresh and confident for their first game against South African opposition — and so will their 30 000-plus crowd. It is what Plumtree is expecting from the Super Rugby debutants.

“They’ll be pretty patriotic down there in PE,” he said after his Sharks had downed the Stormers.

“The Kings have come off a good win, the crowd will be right behind them and they’ll have enjoyed their first experience of Super Rugby. They’ll be looking forward to the next one, and the next one’s us. The warning signs for us are there.”

But Plumtree believes the days of underrating opponents have passed.

“We had made a big move on changing the culture in the Sharks squad. It is now more player-run and we don’t want to spend our week talking about attitude. We want to focus on preparation for the next contest and we know if we underestimate anyone in this competition, we can get hurt. It has happened to us before.

“I hope that the players have grown up enough to understand and learn from mistakes in the past.If your feet come off the ground and your heads are in the clouds, this competition comes back and bites you.”

Plumtree said that the Kings had a fair spread of players with Super Rugby experience.

“You combine that with the passion they will have and this will be a tricky encounter.”

The Sharks follow the trip to Port Elizabeth with two home games, against the Brumbies and Rebels, before their Easter weekend bye. They then face the Crusaders at King’s Park (April 5).

“I’m pleased with our draw with home games to start off with. In the past we’ve travelled early, so I was pleased with the opportunity to do it the other way around this year. “

He said that some of his walking wounded would start returning by the end of the month.

Still sidelined are loose forwards Keegan Daniel and Willem Alberts, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and centre Tim Whitehead.

Flyhalf Butch James was initially expected to miss the opening fortnight, but Plumtree said that “a bit more has happened than we anticipated”. “He’s had a cartilage removed, but the positive news is that his knee is clean and he can rehab it and come back strong. It’s going to be important, because there are going to be some tired bodies in our squad.”

Saturday’s game kicks off at 7.10 pm with young South African Jason Jaftha the referee.

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