New era for Plumtree's Sharks
Durban - Sharks coach John Plumtree says his players are ready to begin a "new era" in the franchise's history when they kick-off the new Super Rugby campaign later this week.
The Durban union has lost several of its stalwarts with captain John Smit, as well as veteran backs Stefan Terblanche and Adrian Jacobs, leaving.
The mantle has now been passed on to the next generation with Plumtree agreeing it was a fresh start for everyone.
"It's definitely [a new era now]," Plumtree said on Tuesday.
"That happens naturally, there’s always that transition. Certainly if you look at our camp, you see players that have been groomed by those senior players that have left. The tradition’s the same with us. It’s just the baton that gets handed over to other players to lead."
The Sharks boss paid homage to the new leaders of his group, captain Keegan Daniel and his deputy Bismarck du Plessis.
"I must say that Keegan and Bismarck in particular have really taken to it and the rest of the players are pitching in and helping out. It’s making my job easier as well, which is great."
The Sharks play three-time winners, the Bulls, in their campaign opener at Loftus Versfeld on Friday - a match Plumtree expected to be "just as difficult as it may have been in the past", despite the Pretoria outfit themselves losing many key figures.
"They have got some really nice backs and have recruited well. I’m sure they’ll play with some width when they get that opportunity and that fast ball that we see from them.
"There’ll be a lot of collisions to look out for around the rucks and a lot of driving mauls to look after. I’m sure they’ll try and wear us out up front, so we’ve got to be up for that."
Plumtree refused to divulge too much of what his team would look like, but gave a strong indication that Springbok winger JP Pietersen will debut at outside centre. The match squad is set to be named on Wednesday.
"All I can say is that I’m really excited about JP in the midfield," he said.
Another Bok wide-man, Odwa Ndungane, is likely to miss out due to a shoulder problem, while two unnamed backs have minor injuries.
Plumtree added that he expected several injuries in what is an extended competition compared to previous seasons.
"I think it’s a case of just managing that wear and tear. We’ve got some good depth in our loose forwards, the locks, up front with the props and the backs as well. We will rest players, we’ll have to," Plumtree said.
"I think it’s 11 rounds before our bye, so it’s a long time. We’ll have to make sure we keep this group as fresh as possible."
15 Zane Kirchner, 14 Akona Ndungane, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Morne Steyn, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Jaques Potgieter, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Juandre Kruger, 4 Flip van der Merwe, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Dean Greyling
Substitutes: 16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ Stander, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 JJ Engelbrecht