at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
Bismarck du Plessis was all smiles ahead of tomorrow evening’s appetising Super Rugby clash with the Hurricanes (5pm), even cracking the odd joke about his transformation from invalid this time last year to captain of the Sharks.
“I won’t say I enjoyed my debut as captain last week, I absolutely loved it!” he beamed. “I am one-from-one as captain and we will do everything to make it two-from-two tomorrow. It was nice to have a big Durban crowd supporting us against the Bulls and us performing well: we wanted to score four tries, and we did. I was very happy with that.”
Du Plessis will captain an unchanged team against the Hurricanes. In fact, it is an unchanged match squad and a long time since the Sharks have had that luxury given Super Rugby’s attrition rate on players.
“Twelve months ago, I was doing metabolic circuits and in the gym twice a day, every day (while recovering from a knee injury that sidelined him for almost a year),” Du Plessis recalled. “It’s nice to be out on the field now. We have a really good squad and I don’t think we were ever able to choose the same team (in consecutive games) last year, so to have the same team for two weeks in a row is great. We can learn from each other and improve our combinations.”
The luxury of choice means a player of the calibre of last year’s captain, Keegan Daniel, is unable to force his way back into the squad now that he is over injury.
The Sharks are at full strength and have a bye next week, so they are in the mood to throw the kitchen sink at the Hurricanes. They can treat this match as if it is a final in the knowledge that they can empty the tank and then put their feet up on the cooler boxes next week, and if they can hit their rest-week with nine or 10 points in the bank (they already have five from the Bulls game), Bismarck won’t be the only one grinning at the Shark Tank.
Coach Jake White agrees that a great draw for the Sharks that sees them playing seven of their first nine games in Durban is all about building momentum, and losing at home tomorrow night is not remotely on script for the Sharks.
“We want to get some consistency going and make the most of a favourable draw,” White said. “When we first saw the draw, we realised that it is going to be all about how we start (by capitalising on the home games).
“And it’s nice to go into the second round with all our players fit and available,” White continued. “It is a rare privilege to name an unchanged team. There was no temptation to make changes. We have a bye next week, then a four-week block of games, then another bye, so we want to generate as much momentum as possible.”
In the way of a dream start for the Sharks is a Hurricanes team that boast arguably the most dangerous backline in the competition.
“The challenges they throw at us with a backline that has the ability to carve teams to pieces is going to be a different challenge to the Bulls with their conservative, kicking game,” White said.
And the key is how captain Bismarck inspires his pack of forwards’ dominance over their counterparts. It is simplistic to say it is the Sharks forwards versus the Hurricanes backs, but White agrees that the Sharks forwards hold the key to this match.
Sharks: SP Marais, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Frans Steyn, Lwazi Mvovo, Patrick Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Ryan Kankowski, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis (captain), Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Dale Chadwick, Lourens Adriaanse, Stephan Lewies, Jean Deysel, Charl McLeod, Heimar Williams, S’bura Sithole.
Hurricanes: Marty Banks, Cory Jane, Conrad Smith (captain), Hadleigh Parkes, Julian Savea, Beaudon Barrett, TJ Perenara, Blade Thomson, Jack Lam, Faifili Levave, Mark Abbott, Jeremy Thrush, Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, Dane Coles, Ben Franks. Replacements: Motu Matu'u, Chris Eves, John Schwalger, Mark Reddish, Adam Hill, Chris Smylie, Alapati Leiua, James Marshall. - The Star