The Sharks must develop a potent halfback combination if they are to be a major threat in Super Rugby this year, reckons coach John Plumtree.
The pack and backline more or less pick themselves because of the experience and calibre of the players and while the excellent Patrick Lambie is a certainty at flyhalf, Plumtree wants one of Cobus Reinach or Charl McLeod to step up as a match-winning link between the forwards and backs.
“How our nine and 10 operate is going to be hugely important for us this year,” Plumtree said yesterday at the Sharks’ first press conference of the season. “That link with the forward pack is vital. You can’t underestimate the importance of your nine and 10 playing well. They’re the link between what we see as a good forward pack and a good backline.”
It is unclear which of the scrumhalves will get the nod for Saturday’s match against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and Plumtree is giving nothing away. He has spoken of the experience of McLeod and the snappy delivery of Reinach, who had a very good Currie Cup last year.
“Scrumhalf will be a horses-for-courses selection in terms of the strengths I require for the day,” the coach said, keeping his cards close to his chest. Scrumhalf is the one position where the Sharks do not have quality depth and if they pick up an injury, there is no other scrumhalf in the 35-man squad announced yesterday for the campaign. Plumtree said he would look t College Rovers scrumhalf Tiaan Meyer as back-up. Meyer has played Currie Cup rugby for the Pumas.
Plumtree said that the need for experience in what is going to be a major battle in Bloem shaped his selection policy. The tight five has certainly seen action in its time and will comprise a front row of Jannie du Plessis, Craig Burden and Beast Mtawarira, while the locks are Anton Bresler and Franco van der Merwe, the latter having served the Lions for many a season.
“The way the Cheetahs play also influenced a lot of the selections,” Plumtree said. “They have a lot of speed and genuine threats in their backline and we have to be able to match that defensively. We’ve picked a side that has the most experience for the occasion.
“It is important to note that we are also carrying some injuries. We have a core of top players out and when they return they will have a significant impact,” Plumtree said.
He is talking about Springboks in Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and captain Keegan Daniel.
The Sharks have put a big emphasis in training on being more attacking, as they were in the Currie Cup, but there is a fine line between adventure and recklessness.
“I don’t think there is one specific way to play in any one game,” Plumtree said.
“We don’t want the players to be conservative, but we do want them to be smart. Summing up situations in front of them is what we want and what we’re encouraging the players to do. You have to have ball so you have to have a good set piece.
“We’re lucky this year, we have Frans Steyn back in the midfield to help Lambie out,” Plumtree continued
“He’s a big presence, he can get across the advantage line, he’s a running threat and has a long kicking game. If you look at the side, the midfield is probably a bit more balanced compared to a couple of years ago when we struggled in that position. Now with Tim Whitehead to come back from injury, we have depth, and are fortunate to have Paul Jordaan to step in for Tim.” - The Star