Sharks may shuffle their XV

2012-07-30 12:07

Cape Town – Sharks coach John Plumtree has admitted that not automatically starting Saturday’s Super Rugby final with his best XV “could happen”.

It might sound at first hearing like a bizarre thing to say, especially given that his team are desperate to finally land the crown after failure in all of three previous finals (1996, 2001 and 2007).

But the circumstances are highly unorthodox for this showdown with the Chiefs in Hamilton, given the peculiar, debilitating amount of travelling across time zones that the Sharks have had to endure over the past fortnight.

Many consider this their “Mission Impossible” as a result ... so Plumtree, who is not shy anyway to stray from the conventional at times, may well consider a creative element to his team plans to give his undoubtedly weary troops their best possible chance.

Nine times out ten, a team playing a game of this magnitude would clearly want to start with the best possible combination on paper, but Plumtree is also well aware of the increasing danger that some of the most vital elements to his arsenal may fade, through no fault of their own, as the final progresses.

Probed by Sport24 after the dramatic semi-final victory over the Stormers on Saturday night, about the possibility of actually injecting some of his normal first-choices off the bench in the critical later stages rather than their potentially losing some oomph when it really counts, he said: “Yep ... could happen. Dead right.

“It’s something I haven’t really thought about yet, of course. You’ve got to get into some real detail when it comes to that – obviously it means things change in terms of your strategy; lineouts, scrummaging, everything.

“So it would be a big call ... but possible.”

Just by way of example, the routinely outstanding hooker Bismarck du Plessis must be nearing the point of exhaustion -- a situation probably not helped by the fearful blow he took from a charging Eben Etzebeth early in Saturday’s derby, which looked as close to a concussion as you could possibly get.

Yet the all-Springbok front row of Du Plessis, his brother Jannie and Beast Mtawarira are also essential ingredients to the Sharks’ quest to soften up opponents at scrum-time -- and more broadly, in the open-play collisions -- from early on it matches.

Plumtree said after the semi that Du Plessis was “all right”, adding a quip that the Bok hooker was “dancing – badly – in the dressing room when I left it a few minutes ago”.

Plenty of Sharks fans would consider it unthinkable for the big No 2 to begin the final curtailed to “jersey 16”.

But an opposite view, while still keeping bigger-picture requirements in mind, might be this: just imagine the collective tonic it would provide for the visitors to be able to unleash such a big-name customer like a caged, ravenous animal at the start of the second half or thereabouts?

It still remains a long shot, admittedly, that a player of Du Plessis’s class would not begin the showpiece game – besides, braver men than Plumtree would probably recoil at the very thought of breaking any strategic news along those lines to him.

Perhaps a little more viable, if the Sharks decide to employ certain “special” personnel among their subs, might be consideration to starting a street-smart, established player like Steven Sykes – busy when he entered the fray on Saturday – at lock and having Willem Alberts as a second-half, game-breaking infusion of note (either in the second row or in a loose forward capacity).

Alberts picked up a knock to the groin area during the semi-final and his suitability to going full-out for 80 minutes against the Chiefs will doubtless be assessed by Plumtree and his medical advisers during the next few days – as will “heavy game-time” considerations around other men.

As it is, Plumtree is in the relatively happy position of having certain players – Pat Lambie and Paul Jordaan come to mind – reportedly returning to selection contention after injury, and among the 24-strong party currently preparing in Sydney before shifting onward to New Zealand on Thursday.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s probably still every chance the Sharks will not stray too much, if at all, from a full-strength starting XV, and simply seek “one last heroic effort” from them before standard bench stocks are raided as the game grinds on.

But if Plumtree does pull a left-field selection move or two out of the hat, he should not be instantly crucified for it.

There may be method to his perceived madness ... these are “mad” times, after all, for the extraordinarily globetrotting Sharks.

Now, more than ever, it will be about 22 players truly doing the business – regardless of what particular passages of the final they actually see service in.

*Follow our chief writer on Twitter: @RobHouwing


  • wesley.j.lane - 2012-07-30 12:08

    first one! hehehehe

      KeeperofChaos - 2012-07-30 12:12

      Lol. I'm amazed not to see or hear anything from papsak, maybe to much to drink and he passed out on the slaapsak...

      KeeperofChaos - 2012-07-30 14:28

      Speak of the devil ;) GOOOOO SHAAAAARKS!!!

      cap.mor.5 - 2012-07-30 15:07

      Visser. Shut Up and Go Away. We have had enough of your dribble for one season. Please just Go Away.

      john.edwards.733450 - 2012-07-30 16:14

      go rugby go ?... says mr PH who supported and defended a team that played the ugliest rugby in the world this year

      john.edwards.733450 - 2012-07-30 18:15

      Mnt Potato Head .. no. At least not until you morons from da cape change your tune and start saying things like we're "cautiously optimistic" and start giving teams that achieved something in the competition some due respect

      john.edwards.733450 - 2012-07-30 19:21

      yeah you can be passionate without being a d!ck.. honestly when I started posting on sports24 I wanted to talk rugby but the constant flow of cr@p coming from stormers supporters , the sloppy logic and the level of delusion gradually turned me into super troll .. talk as if your team is the benchmark SA SR team when they have yet to achieve their first win

  • wesley.j.lane - 2012-07-30 12:19

    I think it could be a smart move!! Go Sharks!!

      cape.maori - 2012-07-30 12:24

      Not against the Chiefs! Saarks cannot allow the Chiefs to get an early start - it will be lethal. The Chiefs will bury them if they need to chase the game! They need to start with the big guns to rattle the Chiefs early on in the same way the Chiefs rattled the Saders. The Chiefs will be ready for this one bearing in mind the hiding they got from the bulls in 2009!

      wesley.j.lane - 2012-07-30 12:28

      You got to play your best player on the day. If a player is not fit to play he should'nt play. This will just let the whole team down. Or as Plum said less game time amd more intense.

  • Taurus.Blue1 - 2012-07-30 12:25

    Sharkies, considering the reward of holding that trophy, you need to play your hearts out for 80+ minutes. Those 80 minutes is nothing when you compare the glory that goes with it. It will be tough, but you are playing like a team who wants it. My money is on you guys, make SA proud!

      Shnez - 2012-07-30 13:56

      Amen Taurus....

  • mark.botha.184 - 2012-07-30 12:32

    Burden to start @ 2...bring the battleship on when it matters. A Bismark off the bench will prove the difference.

      cape.maori - 2012-07-30 12:34

      By that time the Chiefs will lead by 20!

      wesley.j.lane - 2012-07-30 12:39

      @Cape....ya ya ya coming from you that is supporting the Chiefs???? Be real man!!

      wesley.j.lane - 2012-07-30 12:43

      By doing this the sharks could be unpredictable! Well I suppose we will just have to wait and see!!!

      wesley.j.lane - 2012-07-30 12:56

      I suppose Tim could still play, only a broken hand. It reminded me of the time when André Joubert in the 1995 World cup played with a broken hand and Klapped the All Blacks….Sorry Cape.

      cape.maori - 2012-07-30 13:01

      @Wesley - we know that final was fixed (too)!

      wesley.j.lane - 2012-07-30 13:04

      @Cape LOL you crack me up man!!! LOL again! You have one hell of a sense of humor that’s for sure.Waaaahahahahahaha

      TravieGrif - 2012-07-30 14:10 are a really sad human being. I feel sorry for you.

  • byron.wright.102 - 2012-07-30 12:43

    Surely we can reapply for Frans Steyn now that Whitehead has broken his hand? We only have on recognized center left in Meyer Bosman. Jordaan may be fit but that's not certain. Yes Lambie and Pietersen can play centre but neither were contracted to do so. We will potentially be missing 2 of our starting centers and should be granted the exemption.

      wesley.j.lane - 2012-07-30 12:58

      What happened to Steyn, missed that one?

      TravieGrif - 2012-07-30 14:11

      Steyn can't play...wasn't contracted early enough to be eligible for the playoffs, but Sharks tried to appeal and failed.

  • skinfaxi.mordor - 2012-07-30 14:24

    I don’t think the travel/rest fact should be overstated. Bear in mind that players like Lambie& Jordaan are well rested. Lambie didn’t fly to Brisbane. Players like Ndungane and Burden did not play on Saturday and should be rested. Bosman is always rested because knockingthe ball on and missing tackles takes no effort. Ndungane to slot back in at wing and JP to stay at center. Bosmant there to give the Chiefs a fighting chance. Lambie to start at flyhalf moving back to fullback at halftime when Freddie takes over. Use of the bench will be critical and may need earlier subs to counteract exhaustion.

      goyougoodthing - 2012-07-30 17:28

      They will never replace Freddie with Lambie to start.

      skinfaxi.mordor - 2012-07-30 18:21

      You make a compelling argument. Why?

      gavin.simpson.0 - 2012-07-30 22:46

      Imho, Freddie does not need rest.... we will miss him too much even for a half. Rather let lambie play off the bench where and when required. Freddie is on form (of note).... as is Ludick.... it is a tough call I must admit, but personally I'd keep Lambie on the bench. He has not had a good enough season to warrant a starting callup to this Sharks team unless absolutely required Good luck to Plumtree with making the choices. Seriously, the only forward who has really been battling of late with tiredness is Jannie, and who can blame him. Bismark showed what he is made of... just look at that first scrum, which was after he took that knock. I believe he is too hungry to let anyone or anything stand in his way.

      skinfaxi.mordor - 2012-07-31 09:08

      Can't argue with that Gavin. I think you may be right. Lambie would make a powerful sub coming off the bench!

  • ruan.lacock - 2012-07-30 17:42

    SHARKS 4EVA !!

  • Denése - 2012-07-30 17:49

    I'm behind Plum all the way. Hope you sort out a magic order for everyone to play - considering that catch up rugby is not fun!

  • tim.kilpin - 2012-07-30 20:07

    The slotting in of the repacements is going to be the key factor and maybe some of the more rested players (Lambie) shouls start and have a lethal bench to slot in after 30 minutes or so

  • steveroodt - 2012-07-30 23:51

    Do what you have to Plumb you got us to the finals well done.Go..........Sharks make us proud

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