Injury-hit Sharks dig deep and find gems

2013-04-08 00:00

THE Sharks squad, hit by injury, has been drastically reduced in size, but coach John Plumtree said the good news was that he had uncovered a couple of young gems.

Plumtree, reflecting on the Sharks’ second-half revival and 21-17 Super Rugby weekend win over the Crusaders, paid tribute to the young players in his side.

The Sharks were outplayed in the first half against the Crusaders before applying most of the second-half pressure to secure a tense victory.

“I was really pleased with the players in the second half and proud of the way they fought back.

“I thought [flank] Marcell Coetzee was absolutely outstanding, Keegan Daniel was great. Pieter-Steph du Toit and Kyle Cooper also played well. And then Wiehahn Herbst came off the bench and made an impact.

“We’ve found some real gems.”

Plumtree desperately needs their contribution now that nine players, six of them Springboks, are sidelined by injury. They are Bismarck du Plessis, flanks Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts and now Jacques Botes, and backline players Tim Whitehead, Butch James, Louis Ludik, Lwazi Mvovo and Odwa Ndungane.

Fullback Ludik, a late withdrawal from the bench on Friday evening, has undergone shoulder surgery which will keep him out of the game for two to three months, while Botes (fractured arm) and Ndungane (hamstring) left the field during the game.

Deysel, Alberts, James and Whitehead are still “a week or two” away from returning — as we have been told for the last fortnight — while Bok hooker Du Plessis always seems to be five weeks away from his comeback.

Plumtree has cover in most areas, but his reserves are running thin. He certainly lacks bulk in the backrow until Alberts and Deysel return and for the matches against the Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday and the Cheetahs in Durban a week later.

He could add physicality to the back and height to the lineout by including Anton Bresler at lock and shifting (temporarily) Pieter-Steph du Toit to blindside flank where he played when the Baby Boks won the World Cup last year.

Blackadder’s Crusaders beat the Stormers at Newlands in the first game in South Africa and the coach said the Sharks set-piece would be crucial in the local derby.

The Sharks had almost paid a heavy price for their “passive” defensive effort in the first half, Plumtree said.

“We had a really good plan for them defensively, but we allowed them momentum just as we did against the Brumbies.

“The difference was they weren’t scoring tries as the Brumbies did and when the intensity returned in the second half, the belief came back and the confidence grew. I think the Crusaders also tired with 10 to 15 minutes to go.”

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