Plumtree opts to mix and match against Boland

2012-02-10 00:00

FRENCHMAN Frederic Michalak will partner Pat Lambie at halfback in a Sharks’ experimental team to face Boland in tonight’s friendly at King’s Park.

Coach John Plumtree named his squad yesterday and he is clearly using this evening’s game to test a number of combinations, while providing a couple of newcomers with an opportunity to play themselves into the match squad for the Super Rugby opener against the Bulls in Pretoria on February 24.

Plumtree is expected to play his strongest line-up against the Southern Kings in the Sharks’ final pre-season friendly in Port Elizabeth next weekend when Meyer Bosman, after a strong trial last week, seems certain to be back at outside centre with Charl McLeod at scrumhalf.

But tonight the young signing from Cape Town, centre Tim Whitehead, and Michalak, who has played Test rugby at scrumhalf for France, get an airing.

Michalak is leaving the Sharks after Super Rugby to return to France, but he is determined to challenge McLeod for a place in the starting line-up. And with Conrad Hoffman sidelined with a torn bicep, Plumtree is looking to Michalak to provide him with options at the base of the scrum.

Lambie, who is back at flyhalf where he played Super Rugby last year, partners him at halfback and they should form a lively combination.

Paired with Whitehead in midfield is Springbok wing JP Pietersen, having a second run in the new position of outside centre and looking to build on the form he showed in the trial game last Friday evening.

With a back three of new fullback Riaan Viljoen along with wings Lwazi Mvovo and Odwa Ndungane, the Sharks have a backline crowded with exciting attacking potential, but it remains to be seen whether they gel on the night.

Plumtree has his two young props in action tonight with Dale Chadwick taking over on the loosehead from the seriously injured Beast Mtawarira and Wiehahn Herbst in for the honeymooning Jannie du Plessis on the tighthead.

Lock Alistair Hargreaves is recovering from a foot injury and Steve Sykes, back from his Irish jaunt, is joined by Anton Bresler in the second row with Ross Skeate and Jandre Marais on the bench.

Plumtree has Ryan Kankowski among the many replacements with Marcell Coetzee returning to number eight after spending last season on the flank. Pieter-Stephan du Toit, after an excellent trial, is on the blindside flank with captain Keegan Daniel on the open side.

Sharks’ new vice-captain, Test hooker Bismarck du Plessis, said the squad had high hopes for the season and said they should not be playing if they thought they could not take the title.

“It’s a massive competition and we want to win it. We’ve been close to it a few times. So it’s definitely one of our major focuses.”

Du Plessis said he was delighted to be named vice-captain.

“I’m just there to help Keegan out, but it’s a great honour to be named vice-captain. It has been quite a long pre-season for all of us in the Durban heat, but I think the squad is looking good. We’ve got some new guys in and excellent young players so we are looking forward to getting on with it now.”

The loss of Mtawarira has been a major setback for the Sharks.

“I think losing Beast in any side would be a great loss. You’re also losing a great ambassador. We’re definitely going to miss him, but I do think there are a few young guys coming through and it’s a great opportunity for them.

“You wait for those sort of opportunities, and I do think we have players here who will jump on them.”

Sharks supporters will be hoping that the abrasive Springbok is right on the money. Rugby World Cup final referee Craig Joubert will handle tonight’s game.



Sharks: Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Tim Whitehead, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Frederic Michalak, Marcell Coetzee. Pieter-Stephan du Toit, Keegan Daniel (captain), Anton Bresler, Steven Sykes, Wiehahn Herbst, Bismarck du Plessis, Dale Chadwick.

Replacements: Craig Burden, Julian Redelinghuys, Ross Skeate, Jandre Marais, Jacques Botes, Ryan Kankowski, Lubabalo Teira Mtembu, Charl McLeod, Sibusiso Sithole, Meyer Bosman, Marius Joubert, Paul Jordaan, Louis Ludik.

Boland: Jonathan Francke, Senan van der Merwe, Jacquin Jansen, Siviwe Magaba, Brendon April, Ricardo Croy, Neil Papier, Junior Bester, Thor Halvorsen, Franzel September (captain), Nolan Clark, Jerry Sefoko, Ross Geldenhuys, Chris Buckle, Charl du Plessis.

Replacements: Martin Nel, BJ Julies, Jaco du Toit, PJ van Zyl, Juwell Samuels, Jeremy Plaatjies, Cola Williams, Milroy Isaacs, Adam Barlow, Peet Vorster, Adriaan Claasen.

Kick-off: 7 pm (adults R20, scholars R10).

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