Springbok captain John Smit will return to the Sharks starting line-up at tighthead prop for Jannie du Plessis, and Albert van den Berg will replace injured Alistair Hargreaves on the bench for Saturday’s match against the Reds in Brisbane in the only two changes to the squad that beat the Blues at the weekend.
Mike Greenaway writes in The Mercury that the plan had always been to give Du Plessis a break this week and get Smit going again at tighthead and it has worked out nicely because Du Plessis picked up a minor injury in Auckland.
Hargreaves, the former SA under-19 captain, was not as fortunate and is flying home because of a serious ankle injury. The replacement for Hargreaves has not been confirmed but the next lock in line is Johan Snyman of the Sharks XV.
Van den Berg has not played any rugby in the Super 14 this year because he has been recovering from off-season shoulder surgery.
The Sharks have set up camp at Surfers Paradise, south of the city of Brisbane and on the famous Gold Coast. In years gone by, Sharks minds have tended to wander in this neck of the woods and their record against the Reds is poor.
So it is hardly surprising that mental focus is a theme of the week.
“We have just come out of a team meeting and spoken a lot about motivation,” coach John Plumtree said. “It is important that the leaders in the team and myself don’t spend the week wasting mental energy on worrying about whether the team are “up” for the game. We are beyond that. Individuals must motivate themselves. Representing the jersey is motivation in itself.”
In addition, Plumtree says that because the tour is split into two neat halves, and with the first half having been successfully completed (the two games in New Zealand), it is easy to start the tour afresh with a clean slate.
“What happened in New Zealand has been left behind us and the challenge is to now repeat the exercise in Australia,” he said. “It is important that we don’t lose our way. We don’t have a good record here and we must rectify that.”
Plumtree said that the team were not happy with the way they performed against the Blues, despite earning rave reviews from many.
“We feel we are some way off where we want to be. Our defence is not up to scratch, for a start. We were playing a lot better in the Currie Cup last year, although it is fair to say that the Super 14 is tougher because the teams test you differently – each week you play against a different type of team.”
The Reds are certainly different to most teams because of their adherence to attacking rugby, come what may.
“The Reds play a lot of rugby but don’t always get rewards because that approach opens them up to mistakes,” Plumtree said. “As a matter of policy their coach wants them to play attractive, entertaining rugby. We must make sure we don’t get sucked into a loose game against them.”Tweet