Jacobs could force his way into starting line-up

2011-05-18 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree said yesterday it is premature to build up Saturday’s Super Rugby game against the Bulls in Durban as a cup final.

He said five rounds still remain in the competition, “and it is a bit too early for that talk” in a competition which has had so many twists.

The Bulls, trailing the Sharks by seven points and the Stormers by eight, cannot afford another loss and Plumtree said the talk of a final in Pretoria is understandable.

“We’ve been in that situation before and it does add some spice to the occasion. But Bulls-Sharks clashes have always been big encounters and very physical, so I’d be very surprised if it wasn’t the same story on Saturday,” Plumtree said.

“But I think if we play well enough, we can win all our games,” he said, adding that the final rounds of the competition are still so unpredictable.

Adding to the uncertainty of next month, he said that fatigue is setting in while wear and tear is hurting various teams.

“We saw this last weekend with some of the upsets, so it’s really about making sure you prepare the team as well as you can so they can perform as well as they can,” he said.

“That’s the challenge now for all of the coaching managements. It’s hard to say how it’s all going to turn out, which is what makes this such a tremendous competition, one that has real longevity to it,” he added.

Plumtree said the rash of injuries to a team like the Crusaders is having an impact on the competition.

“You wonder if the sides who have stuck with pretty much the same 16 to 18 players will wear out at the end. Then you look at teams who have rotated and have fresh squads to pick from at this stage and they are doing well at the top,” he said.

Plumtree said there has been some rotation in the Sharks team.

“But because of injury some players have had to play a bit more than I would have wanted them to. It will be interesting to see at the end how the top teams used their squad and who lasts the pace.

“In the first year of a competition like this it was always going to be tough for the coaches to work out what is best with the management and resting of players. You can’t control a lot of it because of injuries, but it will be interesting to reflect at the end which coaches did what to get to the top.”

The Sharks coach said there are a few niggles in the squad, but only number eight Ryan Kankowski is definitely out for Saturday.

“I’m hoping we might have John Smit back by Thursday. Anton Mostert has been complaining about his shoulder, but he should be ready by Thursday.”

Centre Adi Jacobs could force his way into the starting line-up after playing off the bench this season.

“Adi is definitely a consideration. He’s come off the bench and done really well and there’s a temptation to start him. So we’ll see,” he said.

Plumtree said his players knew what to expect from the champion Bulls.

“I don’t think they’ll change the way they go about things or the brand of rugby they’ll play. It has been pretty successful for them and it suits the strengths of their group of players.”

Plumtree said the Bulls’ big name players usually stepped up when under pressure.

“The way Morne [Steyn] and Fourie [Du Preez] play is very important, in terms of their kicking to gain territory and controlling their runners around the edges. I’m sure they’ll be hoping to produce big games because they are leaders in the team. I wouldn’t think we’ll see poor performances from them, so it is up to us to force them into doing different things,” he added.

Saturday’s game kicks off at 7.10 pm.

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