The British and Irish Lions’ tour in South Africa has so far been an anticlimax for Sharks coach John Plumtree. The Durban-based coach believes the decision not to make top Springboks available for provincial teams could backfire.
Stephen Nell reports for sport 24 that The Sharks will take on the visitors in Durban on Wednesday. Despite Ruan Pienaar being spotted at the Absa Stadium, hopes of a change of mind by Bok coach Peter de Villiers were soon quashed.
Fans will not get to see their favourite Sharks who form part of De Villiers’s training squad. De Villers, however, has requested that Deon Carstens feature in the mid-week fixture.
“Ruan was only here to practice his kicking but only Deon Carstens will play. Ryan Kankowski (eighth man) has a back injury and Odwa Ndungane (wing) a groin injury,” said Plumtree.
“It’s disappointing, because a tour like this is unique and the provinces should be at full strength. There should be less emphasis on winning Tests and more focus on a celebration of rugby.”
“It is very unfortunate that the Sharks aren’t at full strength for the Lions match. That is probably what happens in professional rugby. It was the same in 2005 in New Zealand.”
Plumtree is referring to the British and Irish Lions tour to New Zealand in 2005, in which the All Blacks defeated the touring side in the three Test series.
The Sharks coach does not think it is necessary to be overprotective of players. “There are perhaps a few players whom they (Bok selectors) don’t want to lose, but in this country there is incredible depth,” he said.
“You have, for instance, a player like Johann Muller. If you lose any of the locks, you can choose Johann and it won’t make much of a difference.”
“It would have done no harm to have let the Boks play. It’s just sad that the provincial teams don’t have the Boks at their disposal.”
Although Plumtree is grumbling about the Boks’ availability, they will remain off the field for now.
Bok team spokesperson, Anthony Mackaiser, said on Monday it didn’t look like any players would be made available for the Western Province game (on Saturday) against the Lions.
“Peter de Villiers’s feeling is that the Springboks will always be the first priority. However, if he wants to see a player in action, he will make him available. He asked that Deon Carstens play for the Sharks and John Plumtree agreed.”
“I don’t even get the feeling that the Lions are in the city. In 2005 in New Zealand, there was a much better atmosphere beforehand.”
Attendance at the Lions’ three tour matches was extremely disappointing so far.
The official spectator numbers for the match in Rustenburg against the Royal XV was 12 352, while 22 218 people watched the match in Johannesburg against the Golden Lions.
There were 23 710 fans in Bloemfontein to watch the Lions closely beat the Cheetahs.
André Hofman, SA Rugby’s project manager for the Lions tour, expects 24 000 spectators for the Sharks game.
The lack of interest is attributed to factors like ticket prices, the sports fans’ support of the recent Indian Premier League as well as the economic recession.Tweet