Battle of benches

2010-07-31 00:00

RIVAL coaches, the Sharks’ John Plumtree and Free Stater Naka Drotské, are expecting their big-name replacement benches to play a critical role in a tight, tense Currie Cup game in Bloemfontein this afternoon.

The two have opted for continuity with their starting line-ups, but they expect the closing quarter to be decisive and they have overhauled their benches, each adding three Springboks to their list of substitutes.

Drotské has selected an unchanged run-on team, but said yesterday that his substitute bench is the strongest he has had since 2007 with tighthead C.J. van der Linde, back from Test duty, now alongside Springbok flank Kabamba Floors and centre Meyer Bosman.

Plumtree, in turn, has Springboks Beast Mtawarira, Jean Deysel and Ruan Pienaar on the Sharks’ bench.

The Free Staters shocked Loftus last weekend when they came back from the dead with a goal well after the final hooter to pip the champion Blue Bulls 25-23.

“Against the Bulls, our bench really made a big impact and I expect the same with regards to intensity in the second half against the Sharks,” said the Cheetahs coach. “Everyone knows how explosive C.J. can der Linde is as a ball-carrier and Kabamba Floors and Meyer [Bosman] can have an equally big influence.”

Plumtree has made just two changes — one forced on him by injury — to the team selected for the last two games. Former Stormers lock Ross Skeate takes over from the injured Alistair Hargreaves and Springbok Ryan Kankowski returns at number eight with the in-form Keegan Daniel moving to flank and dislodging Michael Rhodes.

Returning Boks Pienaar and Mtawarira join powerful loose forwards Deysel and Willem Alberts among the replacements.

Plumtree said the selection at loose forward had not been difficult.

“Willem and Jean are both coming back from injuries, but Ryan Kankowski is match- fit. I wanted to pick a group that was fit and ready at the early part of the week.”

Plumtree said he wants to use the Beast, who is rusty after a long break, off the bench.

“He will play a big role for us in the second half in Bloem as will Alberts and Deysel. That’s crucial, having a bench that can come on and increase the tempo of the game. If the replacements come on and perform accurately, then that’s obviously gold for any team.”

The new depth at forward, and the versatility of Pienaar, who can play anywhere from nine to 15, has allowed Plumtree to select five forwards and two backs on his replacement bench.

The Sharks have found the Cheetahs har­der to beat than any South African team in the Currie Cup. Indeed, the Sharks have lost five of their last six games in Bloemfontein.

“This team is really looking forward to the challenge,” said Plumtree. “The Cheetahs are coming off the high of beating the Blue Bulls at Loftus and they will be very confident. But we’re starting to develop as well. We were disappointing last week [against the Pumas], but it was a good wake-up call for us.”

The Free Staters, with the big boot of Louis Strydom at flyhalf and speed on the outside, have the talent to mix and match their tactics, but they will hope to pressure the young Sharks front-row and bully them at the breakdown.

Plumtree, with genuine pace among the loose forwards, will hope to play the high-tempo game that rattled the Blue Bulls, but that will be possible only if his young forwards stand up strongly in the battle for primary possession and at the breakdown.



Free State: 15. Hennie Daniller, 14. Philip Snyman, 13. Robert Ebersohn, 12. Corné Uys, 11. Jongi Nokwe, 10. Louis Strydom, 9. Tewis de Bruyn, 8. Ashley Johnson, 7. Juan Smith (captain), 6. Hendro Scholtz, 5. Barend Pieterse, 4. Izak van der Westhuizen, 3. Willem Petrus Nel, 2. Adriaan Strauss, 1. Coenie Oosthuizen.

Replacements: 16. Skipper Badenhorst, 17. C.J. van der Linde, 18. Waltie Vermeulen, 19. Kabamba Floors, 20. Tertius Carse, 21. Sias Ebersohn, 22. Meyer Bosman.

S harks: 15. Louis Ludik, 14. JP Pietersen, 13. Stefan Terblanche (captain), 12. Patrick Lambie, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Steve Meyer, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Keegan Daniel, 6. Jacques Botes, 5. Ross Skeate, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Craig Burden, 1. Patric Cilliers.

Replacements: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Tendai Mtawarira, 18. Eugene van Staden, 19. Willem Alberts, 20. Jean Deysel, 21. Ruan Pienaar, 22. Andries Strauss.

Referee: Mark Lawrence.



Kick-off: 3 pm – live on M-Net, SuperSport 1 and SuperSport HD

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