The rusty Sharks may be short of match practice, but they certainly do not lack fitness and physical conditioning.
Mike Greenaway writes for The Mercury that team doctor Craig Roberts, who is also the Springboks’ team doctor, said he had never seen the Sharks fitter.
“In the 10 years I have been involved with the Sharks, this is the best shape I have seen them in,” he said.
“They are exceptionally fit. At the week-long training camp at Michaelhouse the guys were pushed to limits I have not seen before, and they did not wilt. They kept going. They are doing a lot of highly physical stuff, such as wrestling, which is very demanding.”
Coach John Plumtree agreed that the Sharks were fitter than they had been at this stage last season.
“We are much better conditioned, especially the Springboks,” he said. “It took them a long time to catch up to the rest of the squad last year. I am very pleased with where we are fitness-wise, but I hope we don’t end up with insufficient match practice.”
The Sharks’ second-string team played against the Pumas in Witbank at the weekend in a game that was a replacement for the cancelled warm-up against the Cheetahs, and it has been reported that the Bulls might not bring a full-strength side to Durban for their friendly on February 4.
To combat rustiness, Plumtree has decided to hold an internal match later this week. It will be a full-scale match between the team likely to start against the Stormers and the next-best 15.
Roberts said that a handful of players would not play in this match because of injury.
“We are generally looking very good,” he said.
“Of the guys that had off-season surgery, Jacques Botes (groin) should be ready to play against the Bulls, Waylon Murray (knee) is on course for the second round of the competition (the Lions game in Durban) and Albert van den Berg (shoulder) should be all right for our tour (which starts in the third round).”
The news is not so good for young prop Pat Cilliers, who is out for 10 weeks after undergoing surgery on knee cartilage.
“There is good news regarding Bismarck du Plessis,” the doctor said.
“He tore his hamstring against Scotland (on the end-of-year tour) and while he was sidelined we decided to clean up an old knee cartilage injury, but he is now looking good to play against the Stormers and possibly in the warm-up against the Bulls.”Tweet