Sharks to sell red herrings?
Frans Steyn (Gallo Images)
Cape Town - The Sharks of the John Plumtree
coaching era were not averse to either delaying team announcements for as long as possible or suddenly making influential alterations to their mix on match-day itself.
Might this strategy – it is probably justified sometimes in branding it that – be shrewdly employed once more for Saturday’s Currie Cup final against Western Province at Newlands?
It is hard to tell whether the Brendan Venter/Brad Macleod-Henderson regime will resort to it, although with so many key Sharks players appearing touch-and-go for this encounter fitness-wise, keeping their selection cards close to their chests until pretty close to kick-off might be deemed understandable.
Asked by Sport24
on Wednesday whether he felt the opposition could resort to some deception in team makeup, WP coach Allister Coetzee
said: "Look, we know that they have been battling with injured players.
"It’s similar to our situation; we’ll give it as long as possible to get our best team out."
True to form, WP did beat the Sharks to naming a match 22, although they have made no special secret of the fact that captain Deon Fourie
and now also big right wing Gerhard van den Heever are not absolutely guaranteed green lights yet for Saturday.
Open-side flank Fourie, who stays also the designated back-up hooker to Scarra Ntubeni, has been battling a trapped nerve in the shoulder, near his neck, although Coetzee said: "He’s made good progress; we’re very positive – I have little doubt he will be playing on Saturday.
"Gerhard is a bit stiff in the groin area but should be fine – it’s off-day tomorrow (Thursday) so he should be ready to go for captain’s run on Friday and ready for the match.
"I don’t know what they’ll (the Sharks) be doing, but for us it’s important to make sure that the team playing on Saturday must (come through unscathed) at the ‘captain’s’.
"We’re really in a good space, and Cape Town is looking forward to this big event.
"We embrace it and have worked flipping hard to get here – now we must get over the final hurdle.
"Mentally we’re sharp, the detail is there.
"It’s just about getting all the bodies 100% right for a full 80 (minutes) at high accuracy and intensity."
Fourie said complacency would not be a threat among his troops in the event that the Sharks did eventually put out a significantly weakened side.
"No, it’s knockout stage of the Currie Cup ... anything can happen and if you’re not focused on the day they can come and bite you. The guys know what’s at stake."
And Coetzee quickly interjected: "I think in the final you want to play against the best possible team.
"If you want to be the champion team for second year running, you’ve got to beat the best out there. We want to play the best possible Sharks side; it’s a great opportunity here at Newlands."
The coach offered his thoughts on burly backline star Frans Steyn
’s comeback appearance for the Sharks in the semi-final triumph over theCheetahs: "I think it’s clear Frans
has lost a lot of weight and is looking in good shape.
"He’s had some minutes under the belt now and will be even better in his second (outing).
"He’s a world-class centre, has played rugby World Cup and won it also.
"It’s not just his physicality but the boot that he’s got ... an extra string to their bow. But it’s a Springbok-laden side and you also don’t prepare for one player only."
Neither Coetzee or Fourie, predictably, would be drawn for comment specifically on the controversial pardoning of Springbok hooker Bismarck du Plessis for his stamping indiscretion last weekend.
But in purely rugby terms, Fourie said: "Bismarck is a quality player, one of the best in the world, so (his presence) will definitely boost them – he’s outstanding both scrumming- and lineout-wise.
"For finals it’s often a set-piece dominant game, so it’s definitely a boost for them.
"On Saturday the team that makes the fewest mistakes will win the game."*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing