‘Poorly’ Sharks without skipper

2011-05-03 00:00

THE Sharks will be without their captain and hooker John Smit for Saturday night’s Super Rugby outing against the Brumbies at King’s Park.

Smit strained a calf muscle against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday and is likely to be sidelined for a couple of weeks.

Plumtree has ready-made replacements, with Bismarck du Plessis certain to start at hooker against the Brumbies and Craig Burden providing cover off the bench.

Smit, who was yesterday confirmed as Rugby World Cup captain, and the Sharks’ Springbok squad members stayed on in Cape Town after their weekend defeat for a two-day camp with national coach Peter de Villiers.

While coach John Plumtree was questioning the commitment of his own players after their heavy defeat at Newlands, there were some words of comfort from Stormers captain and Springbok flank Schalk Burger.

Plumtree described his team “poor” and as “an embarrassment” after they were beaten 32-12 and by four tries to nil in this derby game, which could well have decided the South African conference.

Plumtree, not for the first time this season, said that attitude decides sporting contests and the Sharks failed in that area, while the Stormers have become the most physical side in the country.

“You can look at the two teams and compare talent, but ultimately that is irrelevant. It comes down to which one wants it more. In my pre-match talk I told the guys that we had two really good teams playing against each other and that in the end the team that wants it more will win. Unfortunately we spoke a good game but just did not deliver.

“We hurt them last year and this year they are hurting us. That is the reality of what is happening,” he added.

Plumtree, on Saturday’s evidence, dismissed the Sharks’ chances of winning the South African conference.

“There is not much you can say when you are out of the match after 35 minutes, with the opposition having scored three set-piece tries, ruling the breakdown and your team is a metre behind in every respect.

“Based on that performance by the Sharks, I’d say the Stormers are home and hosed.

“It will take a really complete side to knock over the Stormers.”

But Burger, who has been around the block a couple of times, was determined to keep the Stormers’ feet on the ground.

“I don’t know about the Sharks losing their physicality; not when you saw the amount of stitching going on in our dressing room.”

Burger said the Stormers would soon be up against the Sharks again and he was reluctant to write them off.

“They’re a quality outfit; sometimes it just works out in your favour and there’s no real explanation for it. Luckily on the night we were the better team and got the result.”

It was a reversal of last year’s Currie Cup final when the Sharks won by 20 points in Durban and Burger had his ribs broken in a fierce tackle by Willem Alberts, missing the Bok tour of the UK as a result.

“We’ve been on the receiving end ourselves a few times; last year in the Currie Cup final against these same opponents, for example,” said Burger. “You can just be off by five or 10% on the day to make all the difference, and take 30 points against you. So it goes around and comes around.”

The Sharks now trail the Stormers by eight points on the South African conference log.

They will be hoping that the Crusaders, who will be at Newlands this weekend, will do them a favour while they have to beat the Brumbies at home on Saturday night.

The Sharks then have their second bye of the competition (during the weekend of May 12) while the Stormers tour and play the Chiefs, the log-leading Blues (in New Zealand) and the Brumbies and Rebels in Australia.

Further bad news for the Sharks is that they will complete their league season with home and away games against the Bulls (May 21 and June 18), who are finally showing signs of stirring. Their other outings are against the Waratahs in Durban (May 28), the improving Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (June 4) and the Lions at Ellis Park (June 11).

Saturday’s match at King’s Park kicks off at 7.10 pm.

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