Sharks’ shaky start ‘no surprise’

2010-01-28 00:00

WHILE Tuesday night’s heavy defeat by the Western Force dismayed Sharks supporters, head coach John Plumtree says he is not surprised by the shaky performance.

Plumtree was reflecting on the Sharks’ 26-0, four tries to nil, defeat by the Perth-based franchise in their first outing of the season. The Sharks face a close to full-strength Stormers line-up, boosted by the return of Bok flank Schalk Burger, in their second friendly at Newlands tomorrow night The match tomorrow will be televised by SuperSport 1.

Plumtree used all 27 players in the squad — the injured centre Adi Jacobs was a late withdrawal — but they could make little impact against a more organised Force line-up.

Plumtree said the Sharks’ performance is “typical of an early-season hit-out”.

“This time, instead of playing and winning against one of the weaker South African teams in Witbank or Brakpan, we were up against a strong Super 14 team.”

But he agreed the Sharks performed poorly.

“We didn’t do much and we were inaccurate. But we did blow away a few cobwebs and we will get better.”

Plumtree said he had not been expecting too much from his players after a number of pre-season injuries and disruptions with the late return of his Springboks.

“The Force were much better in a few areas and we failed to match them at the breakdown when they had more numbers and counter-rucked us.”

Plumtree also said the Sharks’ lineout play had been poor, with half-a-dozen throws going astray.

“The scrum also struggled and without the platform we had to do too much tackling.”

Plumtree, finding a silver lining, said his two new players, loose forward Willem Alberts and lock Gerhard Moster, “did some pretty good things”.

“This loss could galvanise the players,” he said. “We certainly know what we have to work on now and put right,” said Plumtree. “We are disappointed to lose, particularly with the manner in which we lost, but this kind of tough pre-season game can prove invaluable.”

Plumtree said the Sharks improved markedly in the second half and after wholesale changes — “but we were already 19-0 behind”.

In contrast, Force coach John Mitchell was delighted with the form of his players after they had lost their first friendly to the Stormers by 42 points at the weekend.

“We don’t usually get hard football like this back home so early in the year, so this was great for us.”

And there was praise for the Force’s new flyhalf, former Springbok Andre Pretorius, from captain Nathan Sharpe.

“He’s a fantastic footballer in his own right. He brought composure and organisation, and his style suits us perfectly.”

It will be no easier for the Sharks tomorrow evening (7 pm) when they face the Stormers, and Schalk Burger, in front of their home crowd.

Burger has recovered from the bruised calf that kept him out of the match against the Force.

“I came through the test okay and I am looking forward to captaining the team for the first time this season,” Burger told News24.

He replaces Pieter Myburgh in the only change to the side that beat the Force 54-12 in the opening Neo Africa match last Saturday.

“This stage of the season is all about giving the players a run, and we are doing it, but we also want to form settled combinations and give them a chance to play together before the Super 14 starts,” said Stormers’ coach Allister Coetzee.

De Kock Steenkamp gets his second run at lock, confirmation that he is the favourite to start as Andries Bekker’s partner against the Lions in the first Super 14 match on February 13.

“Anton van Zyl is a No. 5 lock and he is dovetailing with Andries Bekker while we see De Kock as a No. 4 lock. Adriaan Fondse is on his way back from injury and will be the first-choice tight lock when he is back,” said Coetzee.

The Sharks will name their team today and Plumtree is expected to include Steve Meyer. The flyhalf returned from Perpignan this week.

• SuperSport 1 will screen the Stormers-Sharks friendly at 7 pm tomorrow and will be preceded by a one-hour highlights package of the earlier Stormers-Western Force and Sharks-Western Force games.

Stormers team for tomorrow:

Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Jaque Fourie, Juan de Jongh, Bryan Habana, Peter Grant, Dewaldt Duvenage, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger (captain), Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Wicus Blaauw. Reserves: Deon Fourie, JC Kritzinger, Eusebio Guinazu, Anton van Zyl, Pieter Myburgh, Pieter Louw, Bolla Conradie. Lionel Cronje, Sireli Naqelevuki, Frikkie Welsh, Fabian Juries.

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