After eight gruelling but incredibly successful weeks of Super 14 rugby for the Sharks, their bye-in round 11 undoubtedly cannot come quick enough, but they can ill afford to rest up now.
Craig Lewis writes for IOL.
The Sharks blew the Hurricanes away on Saturday to soar to the top of the table, but coach John Plumtree said they knew how important it was to maintain their momentum over the next couple of weeks.
This Saturday they will face the Cheetahs at Vodacom Park, and then the Crusaders in Durban, before being able to embrace their break.
“The Cheetahs have been a real bogey team for the Sharks over the years and we know they’ll be looking forward to us visiting there this weekend,” Plumtree said.
“Then obviously we have the Crusaders after that, which will be a massive challenge, and only then can we enjoy the bye.”
Indeed, although the Cheetahs have been absolutely hapless this season, losing seven straight games and accumulating only two points, they will remember that Sharks’ victories in Bloemfontein have been few and far between. The importance of a win for the Sharks, though, is accentuated by the fact their much-anticipated bye is now within sight.
“We’re really holding out for the bye at the moment,” Plumtree admitted.
“It will be great for us especially with so many of our players being injured, and hopefully after the bye we can get some of them back and have some re-enforcements”
Winger JP Pietersen, is one of those players who Plumtree said was only likely to make a return in week 12 after scans revealed that his calf injury sustained against the Brumbies was quite serious.
Flyhalf Ruan Pienaar will also only be back after they bye while Plumtree said they were holding thumbs that flanker Jean Deysel might be ready for the Crusaders game.
Centre Waylon Murray is also working his way back to full fitness and so the Sharks will certainly be desperate to hold down their spot at the top with such quality players nearly ready to return.
However, 21-year-old Luzuko Vulindlu, who was a late replacement for the injured Pietersen on Saturday, proved that the Sharks certainly have no shortage of talented players waiting in the wings as he produced a man-of-the-match performance.
Plumtree said he was certainly pleased with the talent pool that he had at his disposal.
“Luzuko has really impressed us all year. Before the game he was very relaxed and he understood that it was his time… He’s certainly one for the future and he’s going to be really good in the Currie Cup.
“It was also good to see a guy like Chris Jordaan looking good as well, he’s been plucked from the club scene and it just shows the talent we’ve got in this province and the importance of nurturing it well.
“There’s also definitely some good young talent coming through in the Sharks XV team and that’s great to see as well, the whole system seems to be working nicely.”
Kick-off this Saturday is at 3pm.Tweet