Plumtree opts for bulk against Stormers
Sharks coach John Plumtree has opted for bulk to counter the physical threat posed by the DHL Stormers in Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby derby at Kings Park in Durban.
Last week Plumtree placed an emphasis on a more mobile pack when his team came up against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Jacques Botes was selected as the scavenging flanker on the openside, with Marcell Coetzee playing blindside flank and operating as the carrier, with Jean Deysel on the bench.
It worked against the Cheetahs, with Deysel coming on late in the game just when the Sharks were tiring to give his team momentum with his strong driving presence.
But this week, up against a Stormers team that poses a different challenge and possesses different strengths to the Cheetahs, Plumtree has opted to start with Deysel, with Botes dropping to the bench.
“The pack for the Cheetahs game was a horses for courses selection,” said Plumtree.
“The bench did win the game for us last week, but that is not something that you really plan beforehand because you don’t have any control over when players are injured. Some of the changes last week, such as Meyer Bosman going on when Louis Ludik was injured, were not planned.”
Coetzee moves to openside flank, a position where he has played well for the Springboks when he has a strong carrier such as Willem Alberts with him.
Alberts is not there on Saturday as he still has a couple of weeks to go before he gets over a neck injury that has limited his involvement in the pre-season preparations, but Deysel is in a similar mould as a blindside flanker.
With the Stormers fielding a big back row in the form of Siya Kolisi, Rynhardt Elstadt and Duane Vermeulen, it’s important for the Sharks to be able to fight fire with fire, and the loose-forward battle could well determine the winner of this eagerly awaited replay of last year’s Currie Cup final.
Deysel was suffering from the effects of a knock to the head immediately after the game last week but has been cleared to play.
“Jean and Meyer Bosman both suffered knocks as the ground in Bloemfontein was really hard but he was back in training for us on Monday and he hasn’t had any problems. He finished the game for us against the Cheetahs which was a good effort considering,” said Plumtree.
The Sharks coach said that they were not reading too much into the Stormers’ failure against the Bulls.
“I don’t think anyone should underestimate the strength of the Bulls,” he said.
“They are a union and franchise that has become accustomed to success and winning trophies, and last year, when they struggled a bit, would have hurt them. For once they didn’t have that many players involved in the Springbok end-of-year tour, so they were able to have a proper off-season where by all accounts they did a lot of hard work.
“The media in this country tends to be hard on teams, but I don’t think the Stormers should see a loss in Pretoria as a crisis situation. There won’t be many teams who will go to Loftus this year and walk away with a win. From what I have seen of them so far this year, the Bulls look hungry and organised and are playing great rugby.”
He added that the areas of weakness exposed by the Bulls might not be that when the Stormers take the field on Saturday.
“You know how it works, when a team suffers in a particular area they put a big emphasis on getting it right during the week before the next game, and I am sure the Stormers would have been concentrating hard on their lineouts and scrums, if those are the areas they felt they fell short last time out.”
SHARKS TEAM: Louis Ludik, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Frans Steyn (captain), Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Jean Deysel, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Craig Burden, Beast Mtawarira.
Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Wiehahn Herbst, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jacques Botes, Charl McLeod, Meyer Bosman, Odwa Ndungane.