Sharks hoping to have Deysel and Swanepoel back for Griquas clash

2009-10-06 00:00

THE Sharks are likely to revise their tactical approach and return to what has worked in the past in their final Currie Cup league game against Griquas in Kimberley on Saturday and the semi-final play-off a week later.

The Sharks, for most of the Currie Cup campaign and fielding a young, enthusiastic team without their many Springboks, have adopted an attacking ball-in-the-hand approach and it proved successful in taking them to the top of the log. But in recent weeks they have struggled to play with any authority as first the limited Leopards, in the second half, and then the Lions at the weekend exposed them tactically.

Head coach John Plumtree, reflecting on the Sharks’ battling 19-17 win over the Lions, admitted that he will have to review the game plan and perhaps return to what has worked in the past.

Certainly the Sharks have lost some of their rhythm and intensity at a time when they were expected to start gaining momentum as their Springboks returned and they reached the critical final weeks of the competition.

The Sharks, in seeking to attack space out wide instead of playing their direct rugby, have certainly been guilty of taking the ball wide too soon, and both the Leopards and Lions punished them behind the advantage line.

Plumtree agreed the Sharks were missing injured flank Jean Deysel and inside centre Riaan Swanepoel who have played key roles this season in breaching the advantage line and ensuring that they were able to quickly recycle possession. Plumtree is hoping that both will be back for the Griquas game which the Sharks need to win with four tries to have any chance of finishing top, avoiding the Blue Bulls in the semi-final and hosting the final trip if they advance.

It will also boost the Sharks cause if either of their former captains, prop John Smit or lock Johann Muller, returns to add experience and beef to the pack.

“John is getting better,” said Plumtree. “He’s had a bruised nerve in his neck and had some strength loss down one arm but it’s coming back and I’m hoping he might be ready this week.

“However, Johann is getting frustrated with his arm (broken at the start of the Currie Cup). It just doesn’t seem to be coming right and every time he takes a knock, it flares up.”

Plumtree also conceded that a number of the Springboks have lacked their former sharpness since returning from the Tri-Nations.

“Yeah, some of them have been sluggish and integrating them back into the system hasn’t been easy. But it is something we must work on and get right quickly.”

Meanwhile Griquas, who set the early pace in the Currie Cup and have been in the top four for the first 13 rounds, could miss out on the semi-finals if they lose their final round robin game to the Sharks.

“It seems a little unfair to have that record and not make the semi-finals,” coach Dawie Theron said after Griquas lost 61-27 to the Blue Bulls at Loftus on Saturday.

Griquas need two log points from Saturday’s game against the Sharks and could achieve that by winning, drawing or by scoring two bonus points (for four tries and for losing by less than seven points).

Griquas are on 39 log points and could lose out to the Free Staters, on 35, who play last-placed Boland in their final game in Wellington and seem certain to take maximum points from that outing.

Theron said that depth in his Griquas squad was becoming a problem.

“Just when the Blue Bulls and the Sharks got their Springboks back,” said Theron, “we had to start looking at club players because of injuries.”

He said that the lack of depth has also left the senior players tired and sore.

“Our captain Jonno Mokuena has played in all our matches this season — I think it’s 26 games now — while Ryno Barnes has been rested for one match, and so it goes on. But the boys will be up for the Sharks game and I’m confident we will still make the play-offs.”

Plumtree is expecting a tough match.

“They will fancy taking us down in Kimberley,” he said. “They have beaten us before and we know we have to improve on the way we played against the Lions if we are to win up there.”

The Sharks game in Kimberley on Saturday is at 3 pm and Western Province will know exactly what they need to do to stay top of the log when their final match against the Lions at Ellis Park kicks off at 5.05 pm.

The Sharks and Western Province are confirmed as hosts of the semi-finals on October17.

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