After Wednesday’s Sharks training session, which revealed a temporary turn of events writes Craig Lewis for The Daily News , assistant coach Grant Bashford summed it up best when he said with a chuckle: “There’s never a dull moment here at the Sharks is there?”
First, it was a surprise to see the unmistakable figure of former All Blacks and current Western Force coach John Mitchell still working with the team.
The New Zealander, who is a close friend of coach John Plumtree’s, spent some time with the Sharks at the end of last week and made the trip to Bloemfontein with them for their match against the Cheetahs.
However, he had originally planned to return home on Sunday, following the Tri-Nations Test, but with Plumtree returning to New Zealand for his father’s 70th birthday this week, Mitchell was asked to stay on with the Sharks for an extra few days and he happily obliged.
Bashford said it was great to have him remain with the team and help out for this week with Plumtree away until Sunday and as the team prepares to face the Leopards on Friday (7pm).
“Mitch was in Durban for the Test match and when I asked him to stay on he thought it was a good idea as he has a bit of down-time at the moment, so he’s enjoying being here and he’s really adding to the team, which is great.
“With Plum away it’s a great opportunity for him to mentor some of our young guys, particularly some of the forwards, and he really adds something in every department.”
However, on the downside for the Sharks, several players were nursing various injuries after Saturday’s bruising game against the Cheetahs, with Jean Deysel (ankle), Steven Sykes (ankle), Odwa Ndungane (hamstring), Deon Carstens (ribs) and Rory Kockott (shoulder) unable to train.
Deysel and Sykes should be available for selection but the latter three are doubtful and are unlikely to be risked for the trip to Rustenburg.
However, Juan Martin Hernandez – who took part in all of yesterday’s training – is set to make his Sharks debut, probably off the bench, while Waylon Murray may well get a chance to start his first game of the year.
Looking ahead to Friday’s game, Bashford said they certainly couldn’t afford to underestimate the bottom-placed Leopards in the slightest.
“We’ve spoken about how we really need to respect the Leopards and be absolutely professional in our preparation this week. If we train really well then we should carry that into the match.
“We can’t look at their position on the log and think it’s going to be easy, rather we need to analyse their strengths and weaknesses as we do each week. If we do that we should get the result we’re after.”