Sharks upbeat as ‘easier’ tour of New Zealand kicks off

2009-02-25 00:00

With both Bismarck du Plessis and Jacques Botes having fully recovered from their pre-season injuries, the pair have been named in the Sharks starting line-up to take on the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.

Du Plessis will start at hooker in place of John Smit and Botes takes over from flank Keegan Daniel in an otherwise unchanged match 22.

pening two games, take a breather on the bench as coach John Plumtree rotates players.

The Chiefs, without a win in the 2009 Super 14 and the only New Zealand side never to have contested a final, are under pressure to perform after losing their first two matches — both away from home. Playing at home will give them a measure of confidence, but they are sitting in 12th position. A worry for them will not only be where they are placed, but their inability to score points. They have managed to pick up on average just 10 points per game, although they were competitive against both the Crusaders and the Waratahs.

This has not been lost on the Sharks management.

“Yeah, they will be really desperate,” said Plumtree. “They won’t want to go three down. In fairness, they have probably had the hardest draw of any New Zealand side, playing last year’s finalists in the opening two weeks away from home.

“There won’t be panic stations just yet, and with us out of the way and having played the Waratahs and Crusaders, they know they will have got possibly three of the better teams out of the way, but certainly you don’t want to drop any home games.”

The Sharks will be looking to make it three from three and get their tour off to the best possible start. Compared to last year’s nightmare five-match tour, the Sharks are extremely positive this year.

“This tour isn’t bad at all,” explains Plumtree. “We stay at the top of the North Island for two weeks, then we’re in Brisbane for 10 days, then over to Perth before nipping back home. This is easy for the boys compared to what we had to do last year.”

But first they have to win their opening game on tour and they know that it will require a top effort to beat the Chiefs.

One player the Sharks will be only too happy not to have to watch out for is powerhouse Sione Lauaki, considered doubtful for the match.

“We’ve always come up with strategies to look after him and we don’t seem to manage him,” said the coach. “Hit him high, hit him low, it doesn’t seem to matter. He’s got a bit of a thing for the Sharks and it gives him confidence.”

However, in Ryan Kankowski the Sharks have their own weapon.

“There is quite good depth in South African rugby in terms of loose forwards. Ryan is one of them and he offers a different kind of threat. There is no one with his kind of speed in the competition. When he gets into space, it’s ‘Goodnight, nurse’. He’s an amazing athlete.”

Saturday’s match kicks off at 8.35 am (SA time).

Sharks team: Stefan Terblanche, Odwa Ndungane, Adrian Jacobs, Francois Steyn, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar, Rory Kockott, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Johann Muller (capt), Steven Sykes, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Deon Carstens.

Replacements: John Smit, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, Alistair Hargreaves, Keegan Daniel, Ross Cronje, Riaan Swanepoel, Luzuko Vulindlu.

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