Sharks mix and match for front row

2009-02-09 00:00

The Sharks were all up and running at training at King’s Park last night, but coach John Plumtree still faces a couple of highly tricky front-row selections ahead of Saturday’s Super 14 opener against the Stormers in Cape Town.

The Sharks’ pre-season preparations have been hampered by injuries to four front-row men — two looseheads in Beast Mtawarira and Deon Carstens, a hooker (Bismarck du Plessis) and tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.

All were back at training last night and Plumtree is still hoping that the four will be ready for Newlands this weekend. But Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis have had no game time and Plumtree may opt to play both off the bench and start with Carstens at loosehead, John Smit at hooker and Jannie du Plessis at tighthead.

He has a number of other permutations and if Bismarck du Plessis is fit and ready, he could go straight into the frontline with Smit at tighthead.

Assistant coach Grant Bashford said last night that it was gratifying to see the whole squad “out running at practice”.

“Decisions on selection will be made later in the week, but it was pleasing to see the injured players back and taking part.”

The Sharks’ problems appear confined to the front-row and the rest of the team chooses itself.

“We don’t have any backline concerns and the only player out at the moment is Waylon Murray (reserve centre) who is still recovering from surgery. We hope he will be ready to leave on tour with us on February 22.”

According to Cape Town reports, Stormers’ only injury concern is Fijian wing Sireli Naqelevuki, who has damaged ribs.

The expectation is that Springbok fullback Conrad Jantjes, returning from injury, will play on the wing in his place with former Shark Percy Montgomery at fullback.

Newcomer Duanne Vermeulen, signed from the Cheetahs by coach Rassie Erasmus this season, has been receiving rave reviews in Cape Town and he seems certain to join Schalk Burger in the back row.

Erasmus, a former Cheetahs coach, wanted the 23-year-old Vermeulen to beef up his pack and he is likely to feature prominently in his plans.

Former Sharks and WP prop Robbie Kempson believes Vermeulen will play a crucial role in the Super 14.

“The Stormers have always had quality loose forwards, but I think the one thing they have lacked of late is a real impact player at the back of the pack,” Kempson was quoted as saying.

„They have a number of options at No. 8, but I would go with Duane Vermeulen. He is certainly the most comfortable in that position and Rassie knows exactly what he is capable of.”

Erasmus said that both Burger and Jantjes, who have not played any rugby this year, would be ready for the big game.

Erasmus has also kept flyhalf Peter Grant on ice for the game while he hopes understudy Willem de Waal will be passed fit.

The Newlands match kicks off at 5 pm.

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