Sharks coach John Plumtree is worried that South African teams may be entering the Super 14 with too little game time under their belts.
Stephen Nell writes in Die Burger that Plumtree will field his strongest possible line-up for the Sharks’ last warm-up game against the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup team in Durban.
“There are a few injured guys that we will wrap in cotton wool, but other than that I’ll play my strongest side. The players need time together. They have not played together much,” said Plumtree.
“Some of the New Zealand and Australian sides played three or four games. South African teams could be vulnerable. The coaches here have a different philosophy. They try to shield players from injury. That is why you have to ensure you have a good squad.”
The Crusaders played two Super 14 opponents – the Force and Highlanders – in their pre-season.
The Sharks and Cheetahs would have met in a pre-season friendly in Dubai, but that fell through after the sponsor withdrew.
A friendly match against the Mpumalanga Pumas was hastily arranged for the Sharks so that Plumtree could test his reserve strength.
Since then the Sharks’ top players had an outing against Natal’s Vodacom side in a closed trial game last Friday.
Plumtree is hoping to roll out his big guns again this week, but it’s an open question whether the Bulls will field their strongest line-up.
“It would be ideal to have three games behind us heading into the Super 14. We’ll only have two,” said Plumtree.
The Stormers only had two, with their strongest available side taking on Saracens.
Stormers coach Rassie Erasmus used several of his first-choice players as substitutes in the friendly match against Boland on Saturday.
Plumtree is hoping to get his hands on a video of the game. “No I haven’t got one yet. Have you got one?” he asked jokingly.
The Stormers and Sharks meet in their Super14 opener on February 14. Many experts believe they will be South Africa’s leading contenders in this year’s Super 14.
“I think both sides will improve after the game. The first round could be a bit of a scrap. I think defence and kicks at goal will be determining factors,” said Plumtree.Tweet