Sharks set to name unchanged side

2009-03-23 00:00

THE Sharks, who returned to Durban late on Sunday night after their successful four-match tour of Australasia, are expected to name an unchanged squad for their Super 14 game against the Brumbies at King’s Park on Saturday.

The Sharks lost flank Jean Deysel, lock Alastair Hargeaves and flyhalf Ruan Pienaar to injury on tour, but appeared to come through Saturday’s win over the Force in Perth without further problems.

Assistant coach Grant Bashford said yesterday that scrumhalf Rory Kockott and prop Jannie du Plessis are nursing slight injuries, but are expected to be ready for Saturday.

“We gave the players off today [Monday] and will pick up again in the morning when we will assess the players’ fitness.”

The Sharks are expected to stay with close to the 22 players who were involved in Perth, with perhaps one or two rotational selections.

The Sharks won three of their four games on their travels, but it was the defeat by the Reds in Brisbane that may have provided them with their most valuable lesson on tour.

“Before we left just about everyone was telling us that the one game we would definitely win was the one against the Reds,” said Bashford.

“Even over there we kept getting told that the Reds wouldn’t worry us. The press in Brisbane and the Reds’ coaching staff kept milking the situation and talking up the Sharks. We [the Sharks coaches] knew what was happening and we kept warning the players, but I think it does work on the players’ minds.

“Certainly the Reds were more up for the game than us and we learnt again that there is no side in this competition you can take for granted. You have to respect every team and the Brumbies this weekend are certainly not going to be taken lightly.”

Bashford also agreed that the Sharks, beaten in terms of territory and possession by the Force, were being forced to make too many tackles and playing too much rugby without the ball.

“I think we have to review our strategy. There is a lot of tactical kicking with the new ELVs, but you have to get the balance right between playing with the ball and booting it. So we will have to look at that.”

Bashford did point out that the teams playing most with the ball — and therefore making the fewest tackles — are not among the top teams on the log.

“Still, we have to get that balance right and express ourselves more on attack.”

The Sharks backline coach said the Brumbies, in spite of their weekend loss to the Lions, remain a real threat.

“They have been one of our bogey teams in the past and they have some very good players. After what happened against the Reds we know we can’t lose focus,” said Bashford.

The news from the Brumbies camp is that Wallaby captain Stirling Mortlock has been cleared of a serious leg injury after his nasty collision during the Brumbies’ 25-17 loss to the Lions in Johannesburg.

Mortlock hobbled off Ellis Park in the second half after his leg was badly bent. The early reports back are that he suffered only a “cork” and should be available for the clash with the Sharks on Saturday.

“At this stage it appears that Stirling has suffered a corked thigh in both legs,” Brumbies doctor Warren McDonald said. “We will monitor him over the next 48 hours and see how he fares.”

Saturday’s match at King’s Park in Durban kicks off at 5 pm.

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