The Sharks will have to do without a number of key personnel against the Leopards this Friday night – coach John Plumtree being among them. The former Natal loose forward has flown back to New Zealand this week to attend to a family matter, leaving the team in the capable hands of his assistants.
On the playing front, a number of the seniors in the team look unlikely to make the trip at this stage due to various niggles picked up against the Free State Cheetahs last week. Prop Deon Carstens never looked comfortable in Bloem and was subbed before half time. His place in the starting lineup will likely go to Wiehahn Herbst, who was impressive on Friday night.
Odwa Ndungane is another who was touch-and-go for the Free State game and looks unlikely to be fit for the Leopards, having exacerbated a thigh injury. Rory Kockott has injured his shoulder, to make matter worse, while there is talk that Ryan Kankowski is nursing a shoulder complaint of his own and may have to have a minor operation on it soon – if he hold any hope of joining the Boks Tri-Nations tour in a few weeks’ time.
The better news is that Juan Hernández will definitely be in the 22 this week, although will probably be used off the bench. Only time will tell whether Waylon Murray did enough against the Cheetahs to reclaim the number 13 jersey this week – one would imagine that he’s badly in need of gametime, though and a good 80 minute outing against (somewhat) lesser opposition might be just what he needs to get his confidence back after a long spell on the sidelines.
Although the Leopards have yet to win in four starts, the Sharks would do well to remember the harsh lesson learned in Kimberley 3 years ago and not make more changes for this match than absolutely necessary. With three seniors and the coach already looking highly doubtful for this game, one just gets the feeling that this fixture might end up being somewhat trickier than the Sharks are anticipating. After the momentum of three good wins, an upset loss to a bottom-placed team can really screw up your season. We learned that lesson (twice) in the Super 14!Tweet