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The depth of Plumtree’s concern

Written by Rob Otto (robdylan)

Posted in :Original Content, Sharks, Super Rugby on 13 Feb 2012 at 11:43
Tagged with : , , , , , , , , ,

Sharks coach John Plumtree faces a real poser this morning, having earlier announced that the team for this weekend’s match against the Kings will resemble, as closely as possible, the unit that he hopes to pick against the Bulls in the Super Rugby opener a week later.

His problem, simply put, is that only five of the fifteen available positions can be considered finalised at this point, with so many players putting their hands up over the course of the last two hit-outs that he’s now spoiled for choice. Compounding that issue, though, is the fact that the Sharks have had by far the gentlest warm up program of any of the South African franchises, meaning that the coach has yet to see whether any of the wonderful depth that is emerging will actually stand up to the challenge of real Super Rugby opposition.

It’s only in the front row, at flyhalf and at left wing (although that latter position is a little less certain) that Plumtree has his starters written in pen, although there is a sixth assured starter in captain Keegan Daniel, who will probably (but not definitely) play in the number 6 jersey. Dale Chadwick and the du Plessis brothers will comprise the front row; Pat Lambie will be at flyhalf and unless the coach opts not to play JP Pietersen at centre (unlikely), Lwazi Mvovo will be in 11.

New selection quandaries to emerge on Friday night came in the form of some sublime play from Fred Michalak at scrumhalf, as well as good performances by centres Tim Whitehead and Marius Joubert, to strongly challenge the assumed backline line up that features Charl McLeod, Meyer Bosman and Pietersen in jerseys 9, 12 and 13. The second row is already a right old bun fight, with Anton Bresler now sticking up his hand for the number 5 jersey as well as being in line for a start at 4 (along with Steven Sykes, Jandre Marais and Piet-Steph du Toit!).

Amongst the loose forwards, Marcell Coetzee and Tera Mthembu both advanced their own selection claims against Boland (scoring a pair of tries each) while Sbura Sithole scored with his first touch to again crack the wing race wide open; assuming a guaranteed place for Mvovo, Riaan Viljoen, Louis Ludik, Odwa Ndungane and Sithole will all be fighting for just two spots.

Expect Plumtree to take at least 24 players down to PE this weekend, given the quandary he’s now in, but perhaps even more as his squad makes it impossible for him to settle on a first-choice side to play the Bulls.


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