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n who MIKE GREENAWAY
Bustling Bismarck du Plessis has joined the ranks of the Sharks’ growing band of walking wounded and he is likely to be rested for Saturday’s Super Rugby curtain-call against the Cheetahs with a view to preserving him for a likely quarter-final clash overseas.
The hooker is battling with a knee injury and will play off the bench according to coach John Plumtree, thus giving a start to the burly Craig Burden who was sensational when given opportunities during the Sharks’ overseas tour.
Of the injured players that missed the emphatic victory against the Bulls, Willem Alberts, Patrick Lambie and Steven Sykes have been running freely with the squad and are likely to return to action.
Plumtree said that young lock Pieter-Steph du Toit (ankle), who started against the Bulls, was a long shot, as was flanker Jacques Botes (shoulder). Sykes’ return to fitness will compensate for the loss of Du Toit.
The Sharks are hoping to boost crowd attendance for their final home match by offering two tickets for the price of one (R90 for two). “You could see the benefit of a big crowd in our game against the Bulls, how it inspired the boys against a really quality side and if we can get around 30000 cheering us on, it really does help. That’s the big thing for us, the more support we have, the better we play,” Plumtree said.
Plumtree acknowledged that from a mental point of view, this was a tricky week after the high of the battle with the Bulls. The Cheetahs have nothing but pride to play for while the Sharks have one eye on the play-offs and their potential opposition.
“The players in the leadership group need to drive the focus. You can talk about it all week, but if the boys aren’t mentally up for it in the game, they can get hurt,” the coach said. “The South African derbies are always closely-contested and you have to be prepared for that.
“If the players expect it to be easy, and then it is not, the trouble is it’s difficult in the game to change the mindset.
“I’d prefer it for the boys to be expecting it to be hard, as we know it will be,” Plumtree continued. “The Cheetahs always provide tough competition, regardless of whether they are in the running or not. They will come here wanting to finish off on a high note. There are a couple of their boys that are leaving, so they will want a big last game in the jersey. They have plenty to play for. Pride is a big thing, so we will have to be on the money.”