Sharks set to play internal friendly on Friday

2009-01-27 00:00

HEAD Sharks coach John Plumtree, concerned that his leading players are short of a gallop, has arranged an internal friendly for Friday evening, but the game will be played behind closed doors.

Plumtree, along with his CEO (Brian van Zyl) and team doctor (Craig Roberts), reckons the players have never been fitter at this stage of the year. But with the Bulls suggesting they will travel down for the friendly next Wednesday with a watered-down team, Plumtree is worried that the Sharks will be short of high intensity match practice before the Super 14 opener against the Stormers at Newlands on February 14.

Plumtree is planning to field his shadow Sharks line-up against the reserves on Friday — at King’s Park at 5 pm — and the Bulls next week.

“Friday’s game will be a low key affair, a session closed to the public. I don’t think it is necessary to announce any teams, but it is important to see how the combinations work in a match situation.”

Plumtree has a number of injury concerns, but if his regulars steer clear of injury over the next fortnight, he should be able to name his strongest team for the Newlands opener.

The recent additions to the injury list are loosehead props Deon Carstens (hamstring) and Beast Mtawarira (injured sternum), but Plumtree says both will be ready for the Stormers opener.

Flank Jacques Botes and hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who have been sidelined for most of the build-up to the season, may be ready for the Bulls friendly.

Waylon Murray, back up in midfield and on the wing, and reserve lock Albert van den Berg should be fully fit for the overseas tour, which starts with round three.

Van den Berg, who is the veteran in the team, turned 35 on Monday. The lanky, 110 kg Springbok lock has been one of South Africa’s most durable players and has been involved in first-class rugby for 15 years.

His astonishing speed and lineout skills have turned him into the perfect impact player and much of his rugby has been off the bench in recent years. His fitness and this role, as a bit player, has prolonged his career and kept him free of serious injury.

He is one of the very few players who have been in teams that have won the Rugby World Cup, the Tri-Nations and the Currie Cup and is now determined to complete a full house of championship titles with the Super 14 trophy.

“There are only so many opportunities in one’s career to win trophies and I have been fortunate to be a part of a lot of them,” he told the Sharks website. “Winning the Super 14 would be great.

When you win a trophy it’s an achievement, something special that no-one can take away from you.”

He has already come frustratingly close, scoring a try in the 2007 final, which took the Sharks clear in the closing minutes only for Bryan Habana to trump him with a try after the final hooter.

“I think that coming from winning the Currie Cup trophy last year, the team takes a lot of confidence going into the season. The way we have been training shows we can only get better.

There is a lot of potential in the side and we’ve lost just two players. Looking at it, we have a good, settled squad and if the injury spook stays away, it will be good for us.”

He agrees the Sharks have a favourable draw with seven home games and six on the road.

“We have a draw that suits us, but you know you have to go out and play. We still have to do the hard work.”

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