Plumtree: New era in SA rugby
Johannesburg - Sharks coach John Plumtree believes South African rugby has entered a new phase with so many new faces on the Super Rugby scene.
Plumtree was speaking ahead of his side's Super Rugby opener against the Bulls in Pretoria on Friday night.
Both teams have lost a number of senior players but gained some new exciting prospects.
The respective coaches have made bold team selections for the first game, with Plumtree shifting wing JP Pietersen to outside centre while the Bulls have selected the young and exciting centre combination of Johann Sadie and Francois Venter.
Plumtree said with the changing of the guard in the South African teams, players will have something extra to play for.
“You’ve got a lot of players in Super Rugby this year that have a point to prove, I think,” said Plumtree.
“It looks like that down in Cape Town, it looks like that down in Pretoria and obviously we’ve got some here as well.
“So there’s a change if you like, a new page in South African rugby in a lot of ways.”
He said with so many experienced players leaving, it created the opportunity for young players to show their mettle.
“That’s exciting for them and it’s exciting for the competition as well,” said Plumtree.
Since 1998, these two sides have met each other 16 times in Super Rugby, with the Bulls winning eight times, the Sharks seven times and one match was drawn.
The Bulls will want to settle the scores after the coastal side derailed their chances of advancing to the playoffs when they beat them at their home ground, Loftus Versfeld.
After an inconsistent start to the competition, the Bulls went on a six-match winning streak after three consecutive losses on their tour of Australasia.
The Pretoria-based side needed to win all of their remaining matches in the league phase to make it into the playoffs.
They seemed to be on track racking up convincing wins which included a 32-23 victory over the Sharks in Durban.
The Bulls, however, stumbled over the final hurdle in the last match of the season, coincidentally against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld.
While the Bulls were licking their wounds, the Sharks went on to play in the quarter-final against the Crusaders in New Zealand which they lost.
The Sharks are one of the few teams to have broken the Loftus hoodoo, winning four of their last six matches at the Bulls' headquarters in the last 10 years.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said they had a tough task ahead of them, playing the Sharks in their opening match, as he believes they're one of the main contenders this season.
“When we play against them it is always a physical battle," Ludeke said.
"They try to get the ball into space, then speed it up - a ball retention type of game.”
“It will be the same tactics all over but the gain line will be the vital battle - the team that gets the momentum is the team that will succeed at the end of the day.”
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
16 Willie Wepener, 17 Frik Kirsten, 18 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19 CJ
Stander, 20 Jano Vermaak, 21 Louis Fouche, 22 JJ EngelbrechtSharks:
Riaan Viljoen, 14. Louis Ludik, 13. JP Pietersen, 12. Tim Whitehead,
11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Patrick Lambie, 9. Frederic Michalak, 8. Ryan
Kankowski, 7. Marcell Coetzee, 6. Keegan Daniel (captain), 5. Anton
Bresler, 4. Steven Sykes, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis,
1. Dale Chadwick
Substitutes: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Wiehahn
Herbst, 18. Ross Skeate, 19. Jacques Botes, 20. Charl McLeod, 21. Meyer
Bosman, 22. Paul Jordaan