Plumtree hopes Eddie Jones is right

2009-01-28 00:00

Sharks head coach John Plumtree will be hoping that Eddie Jones knows what he is talking about.

Jones, the former Wallaby coach and now in charge of Saracens, was disparaging about the Stormers scrum after his side went down 43-33 in the friendly at Newlands at the weekend.

“I’ll send John Plumtree a message that he does not have to worry about the scrums,” Jones told journalists after the game.

But Plumtree, an astute rugby man not given to extravagant public statements, yesterday played down talk of any Stormers weakness.

“I know the Cape players and know that Gary Gold (Stormers assistant coach) will be working very hard on the scrums,” said Plumtree.

Privately, Plumtree will be hoping that Jones is right and that his all-Springbok front-row — whatever the selection permutations — will provide the Sharks with a critical edge.

Certainly the Sharks have the front-row forwards to control the scrums with five Springboks covering the three positions. Beast Mtawarira and Deon Carstens are Plumtree’s specialist looseheads, he has two Bok hookers in Bismarck du Plessis and John Smit, while Test tighthead Jannie du Plessis and Smit will rotate at tighthead.

Injuries will obviously play a role and players will be rotated during the long, demanding campaign.

The Sharks have already lost the promising Patric Cilliers to a serious knee injury and, at present, the Beast (sternum), Carstens (hamstring) and Bismarck du Plessis, recovering from knee surgery, are among the walking wounded. Plumtree is confident all three will be fit for Newlands.

The Sharks are fortunate to have two world-class hookers in Smit and Du Plessis, but they are looking to have the best of both worlds by rotating the front-row.

The 24-year-old Du Plessis is regarded as the future, and is the Sharks’ number one hooker. Smit could start at tighthead prop and then move to hooker if necessary — and depending on how Plumtree wants to use his bench.

On the evidence of last season, and if the Sharks follow the Springbok example, Mtawarira will start at loosehead with Bismarck du Plessis at hooker and Smit at tighthead. Bok coach Peter de Villiers’s plan to field that frontrow on the UK tour in November was scuppered when Bismarck du Plessis pulled a hamstring against Scotland, resulting in Smit moving back to hooker and Jannie du Plessis flying in to play on the tighthead against England.

This will leave Carstens and Jannie du Plessis to provide specialist cover from the Sharks bench.

Jones said he had been “amazed” to see how badly the Stormers had scrummed.

“Their scrum was very poor. Cobus Visagie (the Saracens tighthead prop) is demanding a new two-year contract from me,” Jones joked.

“Both sides of the Stormers scrum were terrible. In a serious game they would have been punished. People always say Aussies can’t scrum. It amazes me to see a South African side that can’t scrum.”

The Sharks will be hoping that Jones’s prognosis is on the button, but the Stormers have been warned. It will be a major surprise if coach Rassie Erasmus has not found an antidote by February 14.

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