Boks release Januarie to bolster depleted Province

2009-07-07 00:00

WHILE the Sharks will have to see off the challenge of Western Province for Saturday’s opening Currie Cup clash at Newlands with six of their players currently removed from provincial duty, matters are not nearly as serious as for their opponents.

Out of contention for WP are Gio Aplon, who is still with the national Sevens team, with Conrad Jantjes, Hilton Lobberts, Adriaan Fondse, Nick Koster, JC Kritzinger, Deon Fourie and Dylan des Fountain all out injured.

They have also lost Gcobani Bobo, Wylie Human and Schalk Brits to overseas clubs and Springboks AJ Venter and Percy Montgomery have retired. Current Springboks Schalk Burger (suspended), Andries Bekker (injured) and Jean de Villiers are also not available.

They will, however, welcome back scrumhalf Ricky Januarie, who has been released from the Springboks, and have bolstered their squad with off-season signings, including former Bulls centre Frikkie Welsh, All Black lock Chris Jack and Anton van Zyl from the Lions.

The Western Province side is expected to be named later today, but should fairly closely resemble the side that narrowly lost to a British and Irish Lions B side recently.

For the Sharks, the five Springboks they welcomed back into the fray on Monday could be four for Saturday’s clash if Ryan Kankowski does not recover sufficiently from a groin strain. Coach John Plumtree also confirmed at his weekly media briefing at the Absa Stadium Durban that flyhalf Guy Cronje is carrying a knock from the Pumas game and, like Kankowski, will be monitored over the course of the week.

Although the forward pack is expected to be more than competitive, the backline lacks some experience and the Sharks coach admitted that his team will have to find ways of winning at this early stage of the tournament.

“If we have to be defensive and play a 10-man game to get the victory, it’s what we will do on the day,” he confirmed. “We definitely want to play a 15-man game, but if it’s not going to work for us, we will be fairly direct and disciplined in the game plan we believe we can win with.”

The Sharks started the 2009 season playing a fairly conservative, but brutally effective style of rugby that saw them win seven of their first eight games. While a similar pattern of relying on outstanding defensive organisation might not be adopted so vigorously in the Absa Currie Cup, Plumtree admitted that defence has a huge part to play in the game.

“We’ve been working really hard with the group and will give them every opportunity to play, but certain things can be controlled, and attack is the hardest part of game.

“Defence and the breakdown can be coached and it’s a simpler place to coach, I guess, but attack and breaking down defences is different. With the way defences are these days, you need some X-factor on attack and that’s not easy to coach.”

With Province playing at home and the expectations of success following a disappointing 12 months, which saw them fail to reach the top four in either of the Absa Currie Cup or Vodacom Super 14, despite their pedigree and promise, the pressure is probably going to be more keenly felt in Cape Town than in Durban on Saturday.

Plumtree admits that his side does have to cope with some form of pressure, but self-belief and pride for the jersey are paramount.

“We have our own expectations and there are no excuses. Last year we were in the same boat, maybe slightly worse off, but players understand the responsibility that comes with wearing the jersey. It’s a Sharks team regardless of who wears it and they must go out there and play.

“We’ve won down there before, we just need to believe we can go out there and do it on Saturday.”

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