‘Luck won’t help WP twice’

2012-10-23 00:00

SALT was rubbed in gaping Pretoria wounds yesterday when the Blue Bulls’ Morné Steyn and Morné Mellett were cited for alleged red card offences during Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final defeat to the Sharks in Durban.

The two have been cited by match commissioner Edwyn Wyngard for foul play and could be suspended when they appear before judicial officer Louis Booyse in Pretoria this afternoon.

Prop forward Mellett, who was yellow-carded by referee Mark Lawrence, faces a charge of tripping Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie in the 29th minute of the match.

Springbok flyhalf Steyn has been cited for dangerously striking an opponent (Sharks fullback Louis Ludik) with a stiff arm in the last movement of the game.

If Steyn is suspended, he could be ruled out of games on the Springbok tour of the UK next month.

The Sharks yesterday started their preparations for Saturday’s Currie Cup final against Western Province at King’s Park and coach John Plumtree, spoilt for choice in most areas, faces a number of difficult decisions.

The most obvious is whether to stay with his run-on team from Saturday or to include current Springbok squad members, prop Beast Mtawarira, lock Willem Alberts and hooker Craig Burden, who all played off the bench against the Bulls, in the starting line-up.

Plumtree said on Saturday night that he was also looking at using the highly promising Baby Bok utility forward Pieter-Steph du Toit in the squad of 22.

“Our lineout work was not good against the Bulls and that’s one of Pieter-Steph’s strengths,’ Plumtree said. “He is set to play a big role for us in Super Rugby next season, so it will be good for him to be part of the squad for the Currie Cup final.”

Plumtree has no injury concerns while flank Jacques Botes and wing Odwa Ndungane, who both missed the Bulls game, are now back in the mix.

Province coach Allister Coetzee also has a fit squad, but he may be tempted to make a change at fullback. Joe Petersen, who showed excellent form against the Lions on Saturday when used as a replacement, could take over at the back with Gio Aplon moving to the wing in place of Gerhard van den Heever.

The Lions caretaker coach Johan Ackermann is convinced that the Sharks will be too strong for WP in the final. The Lions lost their semi-final 21-16 to a try on the final hooter.

“I think the Sharks will win by at least 15 points,” the former Sharks lock said. “WP can’t be that lucky two weeks in a row.”

But, as backline coach Grant Bashford said yesterday, the Sharks will not be taking the Province challenge lightly

“If you look at Province this past weekend, they never gave up against the Lions. They didn’t have a good start, but they hung on. There was belief and they backed their driving lineout at the end to win them the game.

“They have been driving well all season. It is a big weapon and something we are going to have to work on in our preparations this week.”

Bashford highlighted the Sharks’ adaptability and their defence as major reasons for their success this season. “We’ve had a lot of wet-weather games, but we have still scored the highest number of tries in the tournament. The rain hasn’t affected our try-scoring ability and the biggest plus for us is that the group shows a good balance between attack and defence.

“We’ve managed to defend really well and against the Bulls this weekend we achieved 93% in our tackle stats.

“We’ve been able to hang on to the ball for long periods of time and we have enough X-factor in our backline to hurt opponents while also putting them under pressure defensively.”

Bashford said the coaching staff had been delighted by the character shown by the young players in the final minutes against the Bulls.

“They were pressing on our line, and the game was already won, but they didn’t want any tries scored against them. The commitment they showed was a huge credit to them.

“It showed character and pride and, as coaches, we can’t ask for anything more than that.”

The final is at 5 pm with Jaco Peyper the referee.

• A number of reports claimed that Duane Vermeulen had scored WP’s match-winning try against the Lions on Saturday. Captain Deon Fourie was, in fact, the scorer. We apologise for adding to the confusion.

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