Sharks list young’uns

2012-01-11 00:00

SHARKS coach John Plumtree is planning to use versatile Springbok Pat Lambie at flyhalf in this year’s Super Rugby competition.

The 21-year-old Lambie, who has spent much of his relatively short career at fullback, and played in that position at last year’s Rugby World Cup, has also already made an impact at flyhalf for the Sharks. And that is where Plumtree wants to use him in the months ahead.

“We’re excited about Pat playing flyhalf,” Plumtree said yesterday.

The Sharks signed Griqua and former Bok fullback Riaan Viljoen during the close season and this has further encouraged Plumtree to switch Lambie to flyhalf.

“Riaan Viljoen is very experienced and an outstanding attacking player,” said Plumtree. “We have Riaan and Louis Ludik at fullback and (wing) Odwa Ndungane can also play there.”

Plumtree has French international flyhalf Frederic Michalak back for the Super Rugby season. Michalak, according to Paris reports, plans to join Toulon at the end of the year, but will play at scrumhalf where he has also been capped at international level.

“We are in a healthy position at flyhalf with good depth in Lambie and Michalak. We will also consider giving Fred a role at scrumhalf. “

Plumtree said that there would be strong competition for the scrumhalf berth with Charl McLeod, Conrad Hoffman, who is currently injured, and Michalak in contention.

Hoffman suffered a torn pectoral muscle in the gym and will be out for a month. “He hurt himself doing a bench-press and he could be out for four weeks, but we are hoping he will be back for the start of the season,” said Plumtree.

The Sharks midfield was a major concern for most of last year but Plumtree is looking to a mix of experience and young talent to solve his problem.

“Marius Joubert and Meyer Bosman are both going through pretty hectic conditioning programmes,” the Sharks coach said of the two former Springbok centres.

“We want them to improve in different areas, but we have youngsters like Tim Whitehead (signed from the Stormers) and Paul Jordaan (Sevens Bok) to bring the X-factor to the midfield.

“So there is good competition and more depth at centre which is a change for us. Whitehead has impressed me for two years and never really got an opportunity at Province. He will get the chance to step up here and he is clearly a quality footballer.

“The Sharks U21 youngsters, like Paul Jordaan and Gouws Prinsloo, impressed me last year and bring some flair to the squad.”

Plumtree said that the Sharks were well-served at forward.

“There is a lot of experience in the pack now and some of these guys have been playing Super Rugby for five or six years. I think we’re in good shape, but it’s a long competition and, if you lose two or three guys to injury, especially if it’s in the same position, then suddenly you can come under pressure.

“But the U21s did well last year and our Vodacom Cup side are full of promising youngsters as well so we’ll also be able to draw from them.”

While there is some concern about the second row, Plumtree said that the fitness of the senior players would be key. “If Ross Skeate and Alistair Hargreaves can find some real form, and dominate the middle of the lineout, then you have bigger ball-carrying locks such as Jandre Marais and Anton Bresler.

“Piet-Steph du Toit is in the squad as well and is an outstanding youngster who has been involved with the SA U20s. He could feature a bit.

“Super Rugby is intense but you have some players who can last every game and others who can only cope with five or six. So there might be a couple of surprises, but we will be helped by the fact that we blooded a couple of youngsters in the Currie Cup.”

Plumtree said he hoped he would not have to use big loose forwards Jean Deysel and Willem Alberts at lock. “That certainly would not be my first-choice. but it could happen in some games depending on circumstances. So there is a mixture of excitement and a bit of the unknown and this has brought an excitement to the squad.”

Plumtree said that the Sharks captain would be named next week with backrower Keegan Daniel, who led the team last year, likely to be re-appointed.

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