The last remaining demons from Friday night’s poor performance against Boland were exorcised from the Sharks at their practice on Monday when they were put through a punishing fitness session by conditioning coach Mark Steele.
Mike Greenaway reports for IOL.
“We needed to have a bit of a blast. Now we can move on,” coach John Plumtree said with a wry smile.
Significantly for the Sharks, Plumtree said there was a chance that injured scrumhalf Rory Kockott might recover in time for Saturday’s visit to the Bulls.
“His ankle is responding well and he might just make it,” the coach said. “We will give him as long as he needs, so it is going to be another one of those delayed team announcements.”
The uncertainty over Kockott, who is also the goal-kicker, means there are a number of selection posers for Plumtree in the backline because if the scrumhalf cannot play, a place must be found for Monty Dumond, who was in excellent kicking form when he came on for Andrew Borgen at flyhalf.
Dumond is at home at fullback and might play there with Stefan Terblanche moving to the wing.
Bradley Barritt is expected to be picked at flyhalf and if Kockott does not make it, Barritt will be partnered by either Charl Macleod or Scott Mathie.
In an expected change at tight-head prop, spurned Springbok B J Botha will return in place of Jannie du Plessis.
“We did not expect to get B J back from the Boks and from our point of view we are very happy to have him,” Plumtree said. “Jannie has had a lot of rugby of late and this would be a good opportunity for B J to come in. I am not big on rotation but these are two very good tight-head props.”
Changes will have to be kept to a minimum because the back-up to the starting XV is generally inexperienced. The make-up of the Sharks’ bench for their first two matches indicates as much.
“I know the character of this team. It will come through this week,” Plumtree said. “Our working week doesn’t have to change. We just have to work harder and step up mentally, and that will come naturally with it being such a big game.”
Plumtree said the fact that his team was top of the log was scant solace for a performance he described as “inept”.
“For me, it’s how we play,” he said.
“I’d rather we played a whole lot better than we did and only got four points. It was disappointing that there were a lot of guys that couldn’t step up mentally (for a less than glamourous fixture) and it was upsetting that there were a lot of individuals out there, not a team. There is a lot of work to be done and leaders need to step up.”
Plumtree said he was still at loss to pinpoint exactly why the team did not fire until the last 10 minutes.
“You can’t put your finger on it. Everyone was off, and if anyone tells me differently, I would be very surprised.”
The players’ being off colour was exacerbated by the impact of the new ELVs.
“The game has slowed down a lot and that does not help you build continuity,” he said. “Under the Super 14 ELVs it would have been much quicker.”
There were about 25 minutes of ball-in-play time in this match, but during the Super 14, that figure was around 35 minutes.
“To be honest, I don’t know why they’ve done that (made new changes). I quite liked the way the game was progressing with the ELVs.”Tweet