Plum changes mind about resting players
Sharks coach John Plumtree has made an about-turn on his stated intention of resting some Springboks in Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Lions in Johannesburg.
Speaking immediately after his team’s 25-20 win over the Stormers at Kings Park last weekend, Plumtree said he would give consideration to making rotational selections geared towards giving over-taxed international players a rest before the England series starts.
The Springboks play England in the first test just seven days after this week’s round of Super Rugby derbies.
The players mooted to sit out included Bismarck du Plessis, JP Pietersen and possibly Beast Mtawarira and one of the loose-forwards so as to enable Craig Burden, Odwa Ndungane and Ryan Kankowski to get some game-time. But after some soul-searching, Plumtree has decided that is not the way to go.
“I think we need to keep our momentum up and we need to hit the Lions with everything we have. This is a must-win game for us, as were the others, and we can’t send out the message that we are underestimating the Lions, who have given us a hard time in Joburg in the last few seasons,” said Plumtree.
“No-one needs reminding that we lost the Currie Cup final on our last visit there as a team, but our last visit to Coca-Cola Park in this competition also wasn’t a happy experience for us. That was the game where we fought back to draw after trailing by a lot of points at one stage.”
Plumtree said he just couldn’t take the risk of not being at full muster in a game which, if the Sharks lose, could spell the end of their renewed hopes of winning the South African conference.
“The thing about the Lions is that they may have lost all their games overseas but they were competitive in three of them. They continue to fight strongly, even in defeat, and against us they will have the motivation of knowing that we are one of the form teams of the moment.
"Beating us would thus make their season, and after what they have been through, they will be going all out to do that.”
Plumtree has not given up hope of having Paul Jordaan in his team for the Lions game as there is a bit of a tug of war happening behind the scenes following Jordaan’s call-up to the Baby Bok squad currently preparing for the Junior World Cup that begins in the Western Cape on Monday.
“It’s still up in the air and we are still hopeful that Paul might be available to play for us against the Lions,” said the coach.
However Plumtree is unlikely to get any joy as the South African Rugby Union seem quite emphatic that the ruling made by their elected officials during the summer, that national age-group teams take preference over Super Rugby, be enforced and adhered to.
If he fails to get his way it could be problematic as the Sharks look likely to be without another centre in the form of Tim Whitehead again.
The former Stormers player is still struggling with the groin injury that kept him from playing in the game against his erstwhile teammates and which forced him off against the Cheetahs.
Should Jordaan stay with the SA under-20 side instead of going to Johannesburg this weekend, Plumtree will probably be forced to move Pietersen back to outside centre, where he played for the entire first half of the season. Ndungane would then come in on the wing.