Durban - Sharks coach John Plumtree
has confirmed that Springbok No 8 Ryan Kankowski
will return to Durban this week.
The Sharks players have practiced together for some time now, and are only waiting on Kankowski, who spent the second half of last year turning out for Japanese club side, Toyota Verblitz. Plum
tree told Sharks website editor, Michael Marnewick,
that the big No 8 is expected to return this week.
The Sharks will benefit from his early return, although it is uncertain if he will feature in the first of two pre-season trial matches - against the Leopards Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Friday. It is more likely he will be part of the matchday squad when the Pumas host the Sharks next week.
Meanwhile, the coach is also happy with his depth in midfield, with Francois Steyn
joining the team last year to add to their stocks, sharing duties with Meyer Bosman
, Paul Jordaan and Tim Whitehead.
“It’s taken a bit of time to get our midfield to where it is, losing Frans
but now with him coming back,” said Plum
tree. “To have a big, physical player in the midfield is going to be great, he still has a little work to do on his fitness because he was out for three or four months with an ankle injury, but he’s getting there.
“We have some good options in the midfield.”
Last year, with Frederick Michalak playing so well at flyhalf, Patrick Lambie
played a number of games at fullback in a plan to accommodate two world class players, but this year his focus will be on the flyhalf position.
“It was good to see him play those Test matches at flyhalf, but I think it’s also important to understand that the Boks play a different style of rugby to us. I think the Boks play more off the scrumhalf and we generally play more off 10 so he’ll have more responsibility with the Sharks.
“But he started playing really well at flyhalf in last year’s Super Rugby competition before he got injured, and then obviously Fred came into that role. I think people forget that Pat picked up quite a few injuries last year, so he didn’t have a great season in Super Rugby from an injury perspective. But hopefully the injuries will stay away this season and he’ll be able to get a good run of games in that position.”Plum
tree is also satisfied with the overall player conditioning at this stage, with just three weeks to go before their campaign kicks off against the Cheetahs (February 23 in Bloemfontein).
Some players have had to nurse injuries, others came back into the system late after completing their Springbok duties, while others started back in November, which means there was a fairly staggered return to fitness depending on each individual player’s health and workload.
“The players have a fairly good base that they’ve been working from, the guys have been keeping in good condition, and although there are some players who have some work to do, the boys have been working really hard.”