Returned Springboks have ridden into town to boost Sharks

2009-09-29 00:00

THE cavalry has ridden into town to boost the Sharks for their Currie Cup match against the Lions at King’s Park on Saturday evening.

The Sharks mixed good with bad in beating the Leopards in Durban last Friday night, but head coach John Plumtree will have close to a full squad for the Lions game as all his Springboks returned to yesterday’s training.

The Sharks top the Currie Cup log, but need to take a maximum of 10 points (two bonus point wins) from their final round robin games — against the Lions and Griquas in Kimberley — to stay ahead of second-placed Western Province. This would ensure a home final if they advance and will almost certainly steer them away from a clash with the Blue Bulls, who are likely to finish third, in the semi-final.

Back at training yesterday were Springboks who have either been injured or rested.

Wing JP Pietersen, who has been sidelined for the past month with a hamstring strain, prop Beast Mtawarira [Achilles tendon] and lock Johann Muller [arm] are all back in the mix, while prop John Smit and wing Odwa Ndungane return after their week’s break.

Centre Riaan Swanepoel has recovered from his shoulder injury and a decision on the fitness of big flank Jean Deysel will be made later in the week.

Assistant coach Grant Bashford said yesterday that the returning players “would lift the energy levels in the squad at an important stage of the season”.

Plumtree is spoilt for choice in most areas, but his challenge is now settling on the strongest combinations without disturbing the cohesion of a successful team.

Plumtree can now field the current Test front-row of Beast Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis and John Smit with two more Bok props (Jannie du Plessis and Deon Carstens) on the bench.

He has four centres, Swanepoel, Andries Strauss, Waylon Murray and Adi Jacobs, challenging in midfield and four capable locks (Muller, Steven Sykes, Albert van den Berg and Alistair Hargreaves).

There are options at scrumhalf (Ruan Pienaar and Rory Kockott),flyhalf (Juan Hernandez and Pienaar) and there are two Springboks on the wing (Pietersen and Ndungane).

There is no doubt the Sharks have the potential to mount a strong defence of their Currie Cup title. But, as we saw against the Leopards on Friday night, big-name players count for little if the intensity and organisation is missing.

Bashford said the video session [of the Leopards game] provided uncomfortable viewing for the Sharks yesterday.

“We played well until we had our bonus point [after 30 minutes] and then we lost our structure and focus,” he added.

It should have proved a timely wake-up call for the Sharks. The Lions, fresh from their 80-point drubbing of Boland at the weekend, have more talent than the Leopards and will not just roll over. The Sharks have two weeks to settle on their strongest combination and start playing like champions.

Kick-off on Saturday is 5.05 pm (SuperSport1).

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