Sharks’ week of horror

2008-07-04 00:00

Durban — The Sharks delayed naming their side until yesterday, following a horrendous week of injuries.

Although flyhalf Bradley Barritt has been named, reports came through late yesterday that he has pulled a hamstring and is considered doubtful for the keenly awaited clash against a Blue Bulls side that, unlike the Sharks, has been bolstered by a number of players returning from injury.

The Sharks may have lost Barritt, while Rory Kockott, Steven Sykes and Alistair Hargreaves have all slipped out of the starting line-up. The former two are injured and will not play and Hargreaves, a successful South African Under 19 captain a few years back, who is suffering from flu, has been relegated to the bench after missing much of the week’s training.

But despite the bad news, coach John Plumtree has still managed to assemble a handy group of players, with four of the tight five all past or present Springboks. With Rory Kockott out, Monty Dumond, back from a stint of club rugby in France, will start and take on the kicking duties.

Another returning club player, Nic Strauss, back from playing at Bedford in the United Kingdom, will stand in for Steven Sykes at flank.

The Sharks coach has admitted that the team have a huge task on their hands.

“The Bulls present a big challenge. They are big physically and getting a result there will require some accurate play from us mixed with a lot of passion.”

Because of the size difference, especially in the loose-forward department, Keegan Daniel and Jacques Botes are likely to be overshadowed by the likes of Pedrie Wannenburg and captain Wikus van Heerden. The battle at the breakdown is likely to be crucial.

The Sharks coach believes that his team need to imprint their own style of play on the game or be bullied off the ball, just as the Boland Cavaliers did the week before when the Sharks found themselves under all kinds of pressure.

“Their forwards are bigger than ours and I guess in the last couple of years we’ve boxed above our weight, so we need to dictate the type of game we want to against them,” Plumtree said. “They have big ball carriers and if they dominate the gain line, we’re in for a long day.”

He also pointed out that accuracy in defence and playing smart rugby are essential ingredients for Sharks to be in with a chance for what would be an upset victory, given that the Bulls start as favourites.

There is no shortage of motivation for either side. The Sharks have turned in two ordinary performances in the past two weeks, and despite their position at the top of the log, they know there is plenty more work to do. For the Bulls, slipping up last week to Province when they had the game sewn up means they have dropped off the pace. This match offers them a chance to pick it up again.

“The Bulls would have been disappointed with their loss to Province,” Plumtree said, “and although it was a fairly good spectacle, the game had a lot of mistakes.”

Certainly there is plenty riding, not only on the outcome of the match, but also the performances, and both sides would like to add that clinical element to their game that was lacking last week.

As in all encounters between these sides, a hugely physical and entertaining match is expected.


15 Stefan Terblanche, 14 Monty Dumond, 13 Waylon Murray, 12 Andries Strauss, 11 Henno Mentz, 10 Brad Barritt, 9 Scott Mathie, 8 Keegan Daniel, 7 Nic Strauss, 6 Jacques Botes, 5 Johann Muller (capt ), . Albert van den Berg, 3 BJ Botha, 2 Skipper Badenhorst, 1 Deon Carstens. Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Jannie du Plessis, 18 Alistair Hargreaves, 19 Skholiwe Ndlovu, 20 Charl McLeod, 21 Riaan Swanepoel, 22 Chris Jordaan.

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