Plumtree: No stand-out SA side
Durban - Sharks coach John Plumtree feels there isn’t much to choose between the South African teams ahead of the Super Rugby tournament.
“I think it’s going to be quite close, I don’t think there is a stand-out South African side, they’re all going to be competitive," Plumtree told Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.
"There are no easy points against South African sides, which hasn’t always been the case, so to win the conference becomes really tight, there are no easy points anywhere.
“Winning home derby games is going to be crucial, you don’t want to be losing at home," said Plumtree.
The Sharks play their final warm-up game against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth on Friday. Hooker Bismarck du Plessis was named captain for the clash.
Frederic Michalak retains his place at scrumhalf after impressing in last week's 62-0 mauling of Boland.
“I thought Fred played nicely at 9,” said Plumtree. “He had a lot of really good ball, his kicking game was good, his option-taking good and I thought it was definitely a pass mark.”
Springbok JP Pietersen also gets another chance at outside centre after impressing against Boland.
"I thought JP Pietersen looked good again at outside centre.”
The experiment to move the Bok wing to the midfield has been tried twice now and there is little doubt that he could be the answer at 13.
“We will have to sit down and decide where we’re going with this, chat to JP and decide if we go ahead with it,” said Plumtree.
“Putting him into midfield gives us more X-factor out wide. We will see, we haven’t decided yet.”
With less than two weeks to go until the Sharks kick off their campaign against the Bulls in Pretoria, there is obvious interest about the two big ball carrying loose-forwards, Jean Deysel and Willem Alberts who are recovering from injury.
“Both players are going really well, we’re hoping we’ll have both back by the time we tour. Willem is progressing faster than Jean whose rehabilitation is longer.”
Sharks: 15. Riaan Viljoen 14. Odwa Ndungane 13. JP Pietersen 12. Tim Whitehead 11. Lwazi Mvovo 10. Patrick Lambie 9. Frederic Michalak 8. Ryan Kankowski 7. Marcell Coetzee 6. Jacques Botes 5. Anton Bresler 4. Steven Sykes 3. Jannie du Plessis 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain) 1. Dale Chadwick
Subsitutes: 16. Craig Burden 17. Julian Redelinghuys 18. Wiehahn Herbst 19. Pieter-Steph du Toit 20. Ross Skeate 21. Keegan Daniel 22. Charl McLeod 23. Meyer Bosman 24. Paul Jordaan.