Ludik set for wing at Loftus
The need to blunt the Bulls’ kicking game is expected to see Louis Ludik installed at the less familiar position of wing in the Sharks team for Friday’s Vodacom Super Rugby opener at Loftus.
Normally a fullback, Ludik has been training on the wing this week for the Sharks due to the injury doubt over Springbok Odwa Ndungane, who by Tuesday looked highly unlikely to make the trip to Loftus.
While in the normal course of events former Sevens star Subisiso Sithole would get a call-up, it is understood that the fact the game is being played on the Highveld against the Bulls has prompted coach John Plumtree to adopt a horses for courses approach.
The Sharks team is to be announced on Wednesday, but there isn’t too much to speculate about as the Durbanites haven’t made too much secret about their plans. Tim Whitehead and Bok wing JP Pietersen have played both warm-up games as the starting midfield combination and they have trained that way this week.
Whitehead, who struggled to get a game at Western Province and did not feature in their Super Rugby challenge in 2011, has impressed the coaches after moving east from Cape Town and now looks to be ahead of Meyer Bosman in the Sharks’ pecking order.
While Frederic Michalak was prevented by suspension from playing in the last warm-up game against the Kings in Port Elizabeth, he should get the nod to wear the No 9 ahead of Charl McLeod.
It will be interesting to see what the Sharks do with their front-row resources in the absence of Beast Mtawarira, but with Willem Alberts unavailable because of injury the back row is quite predictable, with skipper Keegan Daniel being joined in the unit by the highly promising Marcell Coetzee and Ryan Kankowski.
Coach John Plumtree told a press conference in Durban on Tuesday that his players couldn’t wait to get the season started after a longer than usual off-season following last year’s World Cup.
“It comes to a point when all the work is done and the players just look forward to getting onto the field again and experiencing a game at the highest level,” said Plumtree.
“The mood at training is mirroring that, with the boys getting a bit grumpy. Now they just want to get out there, we’re all looking forward to it.”
Although the Bulls have lost several marquee players since these same two teams brought the last Super Rugby season to an end with a thrilling clash in Pretoria, Plumtree is not underestimating the three time champions. He hinted though that he expected an emphasis shift from a team that used to revolve everything around the pack but which has recruited some of the best young talent in the country for the backline.
“They appear to have recruited well as they have some really nice backs and I am sure they will play with some width when they get an opportunity with fast ball. There will be lots of collisions around the rucks to look as well as driving mauls so I am sure they will try to wear us out up front. We will have to be up for that.”