SHARKS coach John Plumtree is playing his cards close to his chest, but yesterday hinted that he would be including all his beefy Springboks in his pack for Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against the Blue Bulls at King’s Park.
Plumtree burnt his fingers last year when he rushed his eight Rugby World Cup Springboks into the Currie Cup final at Ellis Park and the Sharks lost in a limp performance.
This year he has been more circumspect in his selection. Only one of his seven current Springboks, flyhalf Pat Lambie, was initially selected in his team to play Griquas last Friday night though injury to Jacques Botes and, early in the game, wing Odwa Ndungane, resulted in the involvement of Marcell Coetzee and Lwazi Mvovo.
Three of his big Test forwards, Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira and Willem Alberts, were rested, but Plumtree said yesterday he would select a team to match the strengths of the Bulls’ bruisers.
Bulls coach Pine Pienaar has a pack crowded with Springboks and Plumtree said he was expecting the most physical of challanges.
“Everyone is excited and everyone wants to play, but the most important thing is the balancing act between breaking up the rhythm we have and bringing great Springbok players back into your side.
“We’ve seen it come undone in the past when we had momentum and lost — as we did in last year’s final.
“We’ve looked at the opposition, looked at what they will do, and we need to make sure we select the 22 who can do the job on the day.
“Willem Alberts and Beast Mtawarira have had a lot of rugby and it made sense to give them a break last week.
“Jannie [Du Plessis] doesn’t like sitting at home and always wants to get involved, and it was good to bring him off the bench last week for the last few minutes.
“They’re all in a full training week this week which is fantastic, but we will select the team according to what we’re faced with. The Bulls are very big and physical, we need to make sure we can match that,” Plumtree said.
He said there were a number of injury concerns and the fitness of Steven Sykes (calf), Botes (back) and Odwa Ndungane (ankle) would be assessed later this week.
Plumtree said that a decisive moment in the season was when coach Heyenke Meyer dropped Keegan Daniel from his Springbok squad and the backrower returned to captain the Sharks.
“We had blooded some young players and Keegan led the side well when he came back to us in round four. He also played impressively and everyone started really believing in themselves.”
Saturday’s game kicks off at 4.30 pm.