Hooker on tenterhooks

2013-10-22 00:00

SPRINGBOK hooker Bismarck du Plessis will only hear his fate today but there was some good news for Sharks supporters last night when three of their walking wounded — including two Springboks — were cleared to play in Saturday’s Currie Cup final against Western Province at Newlands.

Du Plessis, accompanied by past Springbok hooker, Sharks CEO John Smit, flew to Cape Town early yesterday to appear at an SA Rugby Union disciplinary hearing by judicial officer André Oosthuizen.

Du Plessis was cited for stamping on Free State flank Pieter Labuschagne in the King’s Park semi-final on Saturday evening and Oosthuizen has reserved judgment until today.

But some of the weekend injury gloom lifted yesterday when team doctor Alan Kourie declared that Springboks Beast Mtawarira and Willem Alberts were “fit again and ready for selection” while Du Plessis’ understudy at hooker, Kyle Cooper, had also recovered from his shoulder injury.

Two other Springboks, tighthead Jannie du Plessis (hand injury) and flank Jean Deysel (hamstring), are unlikely to play but will be medically assessed today.

Jannie du Plessis, Mtawarira and Alberts missed the weekend semi-final while Deysel was injured after just 22 minutes and was forced to leave the field.

The Sharks will be mightily relieved that Mtawarira and Alberts will be back to add bulk to the young Sharks pack. And, with Bismarck du Plessis expected to be suspended for at least a week, they will be delighted that Cooper’s shoulder injury is not serious.

With Craig Burden having already being released to play club rugby in France, the Sharks were facing the prospect of starting the final with their fourth-choice hooker, Monde Hadebe.

There were mutters in the Sharks camp yesterday at the perceived double standards shown by the Cape Town-based Saru in dealing with dangerous play in the two Currie Cup semi-finals.

While few will quibble with the citing of Bismarck du Plessis for stamping, incidents of foul play by Western Province in their play-off against the Golden Lions were conveniently overlooked.

Province hooker Scarra Ntubeni avoided further punishment after he was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle. Ntubeni was sent to the sin-bin in the 73rd minute of the match at Newlands after he tip-tackled the Lions’ Robert de Bruyn.

While Ntubeni was not cited by Saru’s disciplinary panel on Sunday, WP coach Allister Coetzee said that the player would be disciplined internally. This will be of scant consolation to the Sharks.

An incident involving Springbok number eight Duane Vermeulen, who crudely used an elbow to the face to pin a helpless Lions player to the ground, also went unpunished, during and after the game.

Sharks backline coach Sean Everitt yesterday praised the efforts of the young props, Dale Chadwick and Wiehahn Herbst, who had replaced Mtawairia and Du Plessis against the Cheetahs.

“Dale was very good at scrum-time and he worked hard around the field. It was exciting for the two of them and we won’t be worried about playing them in the final.”

He said that the front-foot ball created by the forwards enabled Pat Lambie to excel at flyhalf.

He said that both the Sharks and the Cheetahs had prepared all week for a wet-weather game.

“Then you go out there and it’s dry and I suppose it does take a while to adapt. There were also semi-final nerves as well so the guys were probably a bit apprehensive to start but as the as the game went on, we played with more confidence.”

He said the Sharks would “be definite underdogs at Newlands but we are obviously very excited at the challenge”.

“We’re going down there to win the Currie Cup, not to just compete in the final.

“We’re going to work hard on our defence. We know that Western Province want to get their X-factors like Cheslin Kolbe and Gio Aplon into the game. But, if we can nullify those players, they are going to have to work really hard to score tries against us.”

Province’s only injury concern is flank and captain Deon Fourie (neck muscle spasm) but Schalk Burger is lurking just offstage.

The final kicks off at 5.30 pm.

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