Settling down for home straight

2010-10-04 00:00

THE Sharks, already assured of ending the Currie Cup season top of the log, will field a number of their second-stringers in their final round outing against Western Province at Newlands on Saturday.

The Blue Bulls’ 36-32 bruising win over Western Province at Loftus on Saturday left the Sharks in an unassailable position at the top of the log and assured of a semi-final — and, if they win, final in Durban.

The Sharks ran in nine tries in beating the Leoprads 63-6 at King’s Park on Friday night.

In the other matches played on Saturday, the Free State Cheetahs, inspired by Ashley Johnson, ended the Lions’ dream with a 43-37 win in Bloemfontein. The Cheetahs are now third — with a superior points difference to the fourth-placed Bulls — and the Bloemfontein team could finish second, and host a semi-final, if the Sharks beat Province in Cape Town on Saturday.

This seems unlikely with the Sharks having nothing but pride at stake and head coach John Plumtree determined to rest tired and sore bodies ahead of the semi-finals.

“I’ll definitely be resting players. We’ve been through a lot of rugby and our change-room looked like a hospital [after the Sharks had thumped the Leopards].

“The bodies are getting tired and we have the luxury of freshening up the players.”

A Province win would have meant that Plumtree would have had to field his strongest at Newlands and he will be delighted that players like Willem Alberts, who left the field with a knee injury on Friday night, will have an extra week to recover.

“Willem is a little bit sore. He’s got a bit of laxity in his medial ligament [knee] but hopefully he will bounce back. It doesn’t look too serious and he wasn’t really stressed about it.”

The Sharks (and Western Province) will also have their Springboks back and it will provide Plumtree with an opportunity to give Bismarck du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira and centre Adi Jacobs a run.

He said that Bok wing J.P. Pietersen is nursing hamstring strain and may not be ready.

“We will have guys available who have played no rugby for a long time again this week and bringing them back in at this stage means making some big calls. This is what makes life difficult for a coach.

“A guy like Adi Jacobs hasn’t had any rugby for a number of months. He’ll get some time this week which will be great. I’ll probably bring him off the bench against Province. We’ll see what happens.”

Reflecting on the win over the Leopards, Plumtree said he was pleased by the players’ approach.

“I was pleased with the guys’ attitude against the Leopards,” said Plumtree. “We’ve talked long and hard about making sure we had the right attitude going into this game.

“It was probably a game we were never going to lose, but it was how we played that was important. I thought we played some good rugby. Our defence was strong and they never really looked like scoring a try, which was a positive. But the ball was a bit slippery and there were a few handling mistakes.”

Plumtree said he is concerned about humidity in the remaining games (semi-final and possible final) in Durban.

He also said he was encouraged by the form of flyhalf Andre Pretorius and Gerhard Mostert. “I thought Andre played very well. He looked pretty sharp, his kicking was good, he tackled solidly and he has that experience which could help us going forward. I thought that was a real positive.”

Plumtree said he is “happy with what Pat Lambie has brought to the party.”

“We might give Andre more time against WP. He is good at closing a game out when his kicking could play a crucial role.

“Gerhard [Mostert] gives us that rea­l presence with his size. With two weeks to work on his conditioning before a home semi, he will be great for us.”

Plumtree confirmed that Bok coach Peter de Villiers, who was in Durban last week, has not made any contact with him — which is rather curious.

De Villiers has apparently tried to hire just about every other decent coach in South Africa, yet Plumtree, in charge of the most successful Currie Cup team this year’, has been ignored.

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