Savage Super showdown with the Stormers on Saturday
March 30, 2011 Leave a comment
IT does not get any easier for the Sharks. Four countries in four weeks, the (relative) horror of an overseas flight in cattle class between London and Johannesburg, a jaw-droppping battle with a Crusaders team that is skilled and brutal in equal measures, and now a homecoming war with the Bulls-beating, SA Conference trend-setting, Stormers.
Yesterday morning, the Twickenham sweat barely showered off their backs, the Sharks were back at the coal face on the Kings Park training pitch and getting their heads around the certainty of a savage Super showdown with the Stormers.
Coach John Plumtree yesterday fronted at a media conference in the Shark Tank and while he wasn’t exactly rattling his team’s sabres he was certainly letting the Stormers know that the Sharks mean business in the two home matches in front of them before their bye ( they host the Lions next week).
“Our big boys battled a bit in economy class (there were not enough seats at the front of the plane) and not having a bed to sleep in has probably been the worst part of a hectic month of travelling,” Plumtree said. “In all honesty I don’t know what effect all the travelling will have on us. When we agreed as a group to do the London trip, we all committed to it, and we’re certainly not going to use it as any kind of excuse against the Stormers. If how we trained this morning is any indication, we’re in good shape.”
Well mostly in good shape. The exception from the London excursion being flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter, who yesterday afternoon was having a scan on a calf injury, the results of which are not yet known.
Potgieter, of course, was standing in for Patrick Lambie (finger injury) against the Crusaders and if he is out, that is likely to mean Meyer Bosman moving from 12 to 10 and while that is exactly what he did when Potgieter got injured on Sunday, Bosman has hardly played in the position since Jake White picked him as a 20-year-old out of nowhere for a Test match against Wales in 2005.
If Bosman has to play 10, it could mean a recall for Riaan Swanepoel at 12.
“We’re hoping Jacques-Louis has a better than average chance of making it this week,” Plumtree said of the Sharks’ (surprisingly) only injury concern, although it is in a crucial position.
So how do the Sharks regard the Stormers after the hype and hoopla of Twickenham?
“In terms of physical presence, they are pretty similar to the Crusaders: they’re big in the midfield, their pack is physical, and defensively they’re well-organised,” Plumtree said. “I guess in terms of skill level, the Crusaders are superior, but then they’re superior to everyone.
“We’re playing a top side on the weekend, they’re top of the log and haven’t lost a game, it’s going to be a huge challenge. These types of games have a different edge because they’re local, and I’m sure it’s going to be a really good game.”
The defeat to the Crusaders has given Plumtree plenty to think about, a fair amount to be proud about, and plenty to build on this week.
“In the first quarter we made one or two errors defensively and bang, it was 14 points because of the skill of Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams. The Stormers have very good players in those same positions and hopefully we won’t again miss the one-off tackles that allowed line-breaks and subsequent tries,” the coach reflected.
“Our restarts weren’t good enough in terms of scrums and kick-offs – we let them in too early,” Plumtree continued. “You can’t afford not to be clinical against the Crusaders, especially with the basics, and some of our basics weren’t good enough on the weekend.”
On a positive note, Plumtree noted that his team ultimately made less tackles than the Crusaders.
“I was really pleased with the way we played in the second half. They had to make 60-odd more tackles than us in the end, and that was how we played last year where the tackle count of the opposition was higher than us every game. So if we can get more clinical in our bacics and play with that kind of intensity, we will have a good chance of beating the Stormers.”
by Mike Greenaway www.iol.co.za