Two goals in mind for Sharks

2012-10-12 00:00

THE log-leading Sharks, already assured of a home semi-final, will have twin goals when they take on Griquas in tonight’s final round Currie Cup outing at King’s Park.

The first, of course, will be to win the game and end the league season on top of the Currie Cup log for the fourth time in five years. This will secure them a home final if they win next weekend’s semi-final at King’s Park. (They could still keep their top spot if they lose and the Blue Bulls, bulging with Boks, down the second-placed Lions at Ellis Park tomorrow).

Coach John Plumtree’s second goal will be the seamless integration of his Springboks into a young and successful Sharks team ahead of the play-offs.

He has four Springboks on the bench tonight with two more (Beast Mtawarira and Willem Alberts) watching from the grandstand.

The immediate focus tonight will be on Sharks flyhalf Pat Lambie who has travelled the world with the Springboks for six Rugby Championship Tests, but has seen less than an hour of action in more than two months.

Lambie is a natural footballer and should have little trouble settling into a young, fast and talented backline and he will certainly be delighted to be back playing again after many weeks of frustration.

This week former Sharks scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar popped up to say that the versatile Lambie should shake the utility tag and stick to one position or he would suffer as he (Pie­naar), Brent Russell and Frans Steyn had before him.

Plumtree, in turn, pointed out that Lambie has been his first-choice Sharks flyhalf all year.

“People have short memories. Pat was actually our first-choice flyhalf for the first half of Super Rugby when Freddie Michalak had played either off the bench or at scrumhalf,” said Plumtree.

“It was only after Pat was injured that we moved Freddie into flyhalf.

“Once Freddie started playing well it was difficult to change, but even then, Pat was out most of the time with injury.”

Plumtree has said that Lambie will be his first-choice flyhalf in Super Rugby next year and it only remains now to convince Bok coach Heyneke Meyer that the 21-year-old is indeed the full package. And that should start at King’s Park tonight in what will be a bruising game against a Griqua team determined to repeat their first-round heroics when they beat the Sharks 22-15 in Kimberley.

Griquas have a reputation for not travelling well, but the Sharks cannot take that for granted.

The Kimberley-based players have this year beaten the Currie Cup champions, the Golden Lions, both at home and at Ellis Park and tonight they have the incentive of a juicy semi-final carrot.

Plumtree pointed out this week that the Griquas threat is far more balanced, physical and threatening than in past seasons.

Their coach Pote Human said that the battle at the breakdown area would be crucial and said that flank Justin Downey had an important role to play against his old Sharks team-mates.

“He will form an all important [loose forward] combination with Leon Karemaker and Marnus Schoeman in what we believe will be a closely contested affair at the breakdown area,” said Human.

But Plumtree has singled out creative Griqua fullback Willie le Roux as one of the more talented outside backs in the Currie Cup and the Sharks will want to keep him under wraps.

The Sharks, if their minds are not already on the semi-final next week, have the skill and — if it is dry — the attacking game to win in some style tonight. And, if they can achieve that goal, while successfully re-introducing a number of their Boks off the bench, they will be in excellent shape for the play-offs.

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