Plumtree sweats over Alberts
Gavin Rich - SuperSport
Johannesburg - The Sharks are desperate to see him back in action, but there is still no certainty that big Willem Alberts will be back in the mix for Saturday’s crucial Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Lions in Durban.
The Sharks were hoping that Alberts would be ready for last week’s match against the Stormers, but after taking contact in the initial part of the week, Alberts was unable to complete the build-up with a clean bill of health and was subsequently withdrawn from consideration for the Cape Town trip.
Although the Sharks loose-forwards were excellent against the Stormers, with young Marcell Coetzee being particularly outstanding, Alberts’ ability to barge across the gainline and then transfer to support players around him is unparalleled in the contemporary South African game.
The Springbok impact forward is a giant of a man but that does not mean he lacks ball skills. On the contrary, Alberts was a provincial level schoolboy cricketer, and he has the hand skills and hand to eye co-ordination required for that sport.
He also doesn’t have to make his comeback on the flank or at No 8, with the latter position a strong possibility now that Ryan Kankowski is out for a while with injury. Alberts impressed the Springbok management last year with the work he put in as a lock and technical adviser Rassie Erasmus in particular believes that his future may well be in that position.
Obviously if Alberts is ready to play the Sharks will jump at the opportunity to include him, maybe even in the starting team. There is no coincidence in the fact that the best Sharks teams of the past 20 and maybe even 30 years have had big ball hugging flanks in the mould of Derek La Marque, Wahl Bartmann, Jean Deysel and Alberts.
But it will all depend on how he gets through training this week, with coach John Plumtree holding thumbs that after last week’s setback it goes better this time and Alberts doesn’t feel any after-effects from taking contact. Plumtree is hopeful.
“Hopefully we will have Willem back this week although I have to say that I thought our loose-forward play against the Stormers was very good, with Marcell Coetzee particularly exceptional,” said Plumtree.
“Willem took contact last week but then later in the week he didn’t feel ready. Hopefully he will come through the contact this week and become available.”
Coetzee fulfilled the Alberts ball carrying role against the Stormers, but he doesn’t have the ability to play the men around him after getting across the advantage line in the same way that Alberts does. Should Alberts return, Coetzee could be usefully utilised as a No 8.
Plumtree added that there had been sufficient improvement against the Stormers for him to be upbeat about his team’s chances going forward in the competition.
“The intensity and commitment is right up there, but our accuracy needs working on. It’s currently floating around 70% in terms of things we can control, and we would like it to be better than that. We do need to improve in that area against the Lions.
“Both games we have played so far have been really physical, and we’re not at full-strength from a personnel perspective, but we feel we have a group that is capable of winning. It’s a bit concerning to be two-zip down in terms of derbies, but we feel we feel we have things we can draw confidence from.”