Three changes to Sharks

2012-03-08 00:00

WILLEM Alberts, the powerful and influential Springbok flank, finally returns to the Sharks team in one of three changes for Saturday evening’s Super Rugby outing against the Lions at King’s Park.

And in Johannesburg, Lions coach John Mitchell has added to the resolve in his team by selecting Butch James, the robust Springbok flyhalf, at inside centre for the big game.

Alberts, who has completed a lengthy rehabilitation programme following shoulder surgery, replaces the mobile Jacques Botes in the only change to the forwards and Plumtree will be looking to the big flank to provide the pack with some momentum.

The other changes to the Sharks team, narrowly outkicked by the Stormers in Cape Town at the weekend, see Odwa Ndungane and Tim Whitehead return from injury. Ndungane takes over from Louis Ludik on the wing while Meyer Bosman, who had a strong game at Newlands, is unlucky to lose his place to Whitehead. Plumtree has also kept faith with the quick-passing Frederic Michalak ahead of Charl McLeod at scrumhalf while Wiehahn Herbst is again preferred to Bok prop Jannie du Plessis on the tighthead.

Mitchell has made four changes to the team narrowly beaten 30-28 by the Hurricanes at the weekend and he believes a contest against his old team-mates will bring out the best in the physical, competitive James. James has played most of his rugby at flyhalf, but Mitchell has chosen him ahead of Alwyn Hollenbach at inside centre. James will not only help beef up the inside defensive channel, but operating alongside young Elton Jantjies, he will provide the Lions with another kicking option. Mitchell said in Johannesburg yesterday that James would be motivated for the game at his old home ground.

“It’s more just horses for courses in Durban and the decision has nothing to do with Alwyn’s game,” he said.

The Lions have been hit by injuries in the front-row and both JC Janse van Rensburg and Bok prop CJ van der Linde have been ruled out for a month.

Jacobie Adriaanse will make his debut at tighthead prop and former Shark and Michaelhouse product Patric Cilliers will take over from Van Rensburg on the loosehead.

“Pat Cilliers has the ability to play both sides of the scrum,” said Mitchell. The fourth change to the Lions is at lock where Marius Coetzer replaces Stephan Greef.

Plumtree said the Currie Cup final defeat to the Lions late last year would have no bearing on this contest.

“Last year the Lions’ Super Rugby and Currie Cup team was one settled unit. I think we now have a better side than our Currie Cup one, though we haven’t had the results to prove it.

“I have a lot of faith, belief and confidence in this team and it’s just as important that they do for each other. We’re not far away from clicking.

“We’ve had some setbacks with injuries, and we have guys still returning from injury. That hasn’t helped, but at the same time, I have been happy with lots of aspects of our game.”

Plumtree agreed it was a fixture the Sharks had to win.

“This is a massive game for us and so is the one against the Reds [the current champions] next weekend. If you want to do well in this competition, you have to win your home games.”


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