Sharks: similar line-up expected

2011-06-21 00:00

THE Sharks, remarkably, picked up no fresh injuries from their bruising weekend win over the Bulls and are expected to name close to the same starting line-up for Saturday’s quarter-final against the Crusaders in Nelson.

The Sharks leave South Africa tonight and will arrive in Wellington tomorrow evening (New Zealand time) where they will stay until moving on to Napier on Friday.

Sharks team doctor Ewoudt van der Linde told The Witness yesterday that the squad was free of any new injuries. Three players who have been sidelined in recent weeks, wing Odwa Ndungane, lock Steven Sykes and scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman, would not travel with the squad of 24.

“… Steven Sykes is almost ready but his knee is still worrying him slightly and, because we are leaving tomorrow, we had to make an early call on him.”

Van der Linde said that the in-form JP Pietersen had been taken off in the closing minutes at Loftus “as a precaution”.

The only possible change to the side which started on Saturday could be in the backrow where Willem Alberts, who has had another week to recover from his shoulder injury and only played the last 25 minutes against the Bulls, could come into contention.

The Crusaders will not risk All Black captain and flank Richie McCaw against the Sharks but wing Sean Maitland, centre Sonny Bill Williams and scrumhalf Kahn Fotuali’i are ready to return from injury.

Assistant coach Daryl Gibson said yesterday that the Crusaders did not want to take a chance on McCaw’s fitness ahead of the Rugby World Cup.

Maitland, a prolific try-scoring wing, has not played since going down with an injury against the Stormers on May 8 when Fotuali’i was also sidelined.

Sharks coach John Plumtree said the week would be a massive one for his players.

“… It’s a matter of getting over jetlag and we’re not going to have a lot of time to do that as we only arrive on Wednesday night. That’s going to be a big test for us but that’s what this competition is all about.

Saturday’s play-off kicks off at 9.35 am (SA time) and the bad news for the Sharks is that New Zealander Bryce Lawrence, who has confused them in the past, will be the referee. Another New Zealander, Chris Pollock, will referee the other quarter-final between the Blues and the Waratahs in Auckland on Friday (also 9.35 am kick-off).

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